A topnotch site

Category: mumbai

Communalism in the financial capital of India, and guess what…? Through newspapers

Wikipedia defines Communalism in South Asia as an attempt to promote religious stereotypes between groups of people, identified as different communities and to stimulate violence between those groups.

India, a country with people belonging to multiple religions, living in various regions of the nation, defines communalism in two categories. Modern India suffers not only from conflicts based on religious communities but also between people belonging from the same religion but from different regions and states. Political parties with manifestos based on religious grounds, plays a vibrant role in invigorating, suppressing and motivating Communalism.

Communal violence has been appearing frequently in the history of India. ‘History repeats itself’, can be used as a phrase for communal violence in India. Whether it has been partition of India, Gujrat riots, 1992-93 riots, Babri Masjid violence, and assassination of Indira Gandhi, ethnic cleansing of north Indians from Maharashtra, issue of Mumbai as capital between Gujrat and Maharashtra, India has seen both types of communal tension for years now.

Media means medium. A medium through which message can be spread across a large number of people. Unlike America, newspapers still occupies a major part of mass media in India. Regional newspapers in India reach to all those people who don’t even watch television. These newspapers have played an important role in achieving independence from British and have highlighted various issues, which were not taken into consideration by the mainstream media.  Therefore, it holds a great amount of respect among majority of its region. It has been seen that owners of these newspapers comes from political background, which restricts the ethics of journalism and makes the news biased.

Saamna is a Marathi/ Hindi language newspaper owned by the Shiv Sena, a right-wing Hindu party in Maharashtra, India. The Chief Editor is Bal Thackeray. The Executive editor is Sanjay Raut. Saamna is also considered as Shiv Sena’s mouth piece as it spreads party’s agenda on a larger scale.

Saamna has been a controversial newspaper for its editorials, published during Bombay 1992-93 riots. Due to its ownership, its agenda becomes very problematic because it does not just carry biased reportage against the minority community but also against north Indians who comprises people from both majority and minority communities. Therefore, in a way their agendas keep on changing on the basis of their political stand during a particular situation.

These are some of the editorial headlines published in 1993 against the Muslim Community, which clearly depicts newspapers biases.

“Burning Pyres”, January 11, 1993

“They Were Turned Into Lambs”, editorial, Saamna, January 14, 1993

“Behrampada Reverberates to a Maha Aarti”, report, Saamna, January 21, 1993

 “Hindu Pride Must Be Upheld: The Country and Hindu Dharma Must Triumph”, editorial, Saamna, January 23, 1993

“Keep the Nation Alive”, editorial, Saamna, January 9, 1993

Today in 2012, the newspaper seems to follow a particular pattern while addressing any news element related to this community. Recently there was an article in the Saamna Marathi, Mumbai edition about an attack on American consulate in Libya. The headline of the article was, ‘Dharmadh muslimanch hallyatt americi raajdootsah chaar thaar’. First rule while referring to communal conflict based on religion is to not name the communities. Whereas Saamna clearly mentions it. They could have written ‘Libiyans’ instead of ‘Muslims’ or secondly they could  have said that ‘attack on American consulate in Libya’.

They refer to Muslims as Pakistanis on various occasions. They make subtle statements in which they directly or indirectly make offensive comments.

They also have very biased/negative reportage against Pakistan. Anyone who does anything related to Pakistan becomes the target of Saamna.

Moving on to the other category of communalism as mentioned earlier, Saamna seems to have problems with people coming from other states in Maharashtra for work, especially with people coming from Bihar and UP. In one of its article, published in Saamna Marathi, Mumbai edition, carried a headline saying, ‘7 Biharina Kurla yethhe shastrasathayasahe atak’. The article focuses on the word Bihari. The piece was trying to indicate that all criminals are from Bihar. The article could have simply stated in the headline that ‘seven people have been arrested with illegal weapons’ and later in the story it could have talked about the place they come from.

On regular basis, one can find instances of these biases in the newspaper. And its connect with the past editorials. Headlines are very offensive.

Is media the fourth pillar of democracy? What is the role of media in democracy?

India has been facing communal violence since ages. Media has set certain principles of reporting communal issues. As per the rule facts should be sacred, reporting should be comment free, have both sides of story, facts should be rechecked and the most important of all is never name the communities involved. One cannot ignore the fact that these are not enough when reporting any sensitive issues but yet useful. Reporters are asked to follow some guidelines, which include looking for background details, not perpetuating stereotypes, to find residents where both the communities live together and most important of all is to find stories where both the communities have been found supporting each other.

After referring to Saamna, one can clearly say that media has not been following these rules. And media does not act as the fourth pillar of democracy. It would be wrong to judge all the newspapers and news channels based on one newspaper but it is unavoidable that media is not successful in adopting these rules and the consequences are the continuous communal violence in the country. Media, which caters to a larger audience should not forget the basic journalistic ethics and should not get blindly influenced by the agendas of political parties. In case of Saamna, it becomes a little problematic; because it is owned and edited by the chief of a political party who has hardcore agendas but media is supposed to be a watchdog in democracy not a pet dog. Media is owned and dominated by its corporate connections but one cannot forget that communal conflict is a matter of concern not only for the government and the people involved but also for the entire nation and the world because its violence destroys everything and it is a matter of national concern in terms of security.


History Lesson

I was never a science or mathematics person. All near and dear ones would unanimously agree to this.
I was more on the history and politics side of education. I could somehow always understand and make sense of various things which happened in history and what were the results of those repercussions. It is very pulsating like every new thing you get to know about is a part of the larger puzzle. The new pieces of information to me look like the first time as kid I saw candy floss, pink, sweet, bubble like and very inviting.
Truth being told we live in a society which has completes belief in science and accounts. It really doesn’t care about the candy floss; what we are taught is about how the mechanics of the candy floss machine works and how much will it cost. You have uncle and aunts and family friends who ask you, “Why would you take arts in your high school board examination? You can do a BA in college, it is the same thing right?” At that very moment you’re counting backwards in your head from one to ten and in some cases from hundred to one. In the larger picture personally I am not very fond of the education system but then well that’s how our society believes we will remain sane.
We have brilliant examples of how history is created which we in general seem to forget. It is in those moments, which get together to define or create the moment of the era, which defines a new beginning and an end to the previous one. It is a circle which goes around. This is what should be explained to the critics of history. One of the examples would be of the trio famously known as Lal, Bal and Pal i.e Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, they were the propagators of the radical approach towards India’s freedom. In 1905 they led the Swadeshi movement and during the Bengal partition mobilized Indians and carried demonstration strikes to oppose the British government’s decision.
In the year 1881 the history of Mumbai changed the moment the Marathi weekly ‘Kesari’ came into print. Mumbai for the first time saw what a single man could do. Mumbai started celebrating ‘samuhik ganapati visarjan’ a tradition followed till date.
Bal Gangadhar Tilak was the editor of ‘Maratha’ while Agarkar, his very close friend was the editor of The Kesari. With due course of time the difference in their ideologies grew and Agarkar quit the editor’s job from Kesari. Tilak’s main motive behind starting Kesari and Maratha was to provide information to readers as well as them educate them. He wanted to use his paper make the Indians self reliant and to be aware about their rights. Tilak firmly believed in the institution of education and thought of it as a tool to drive off the British government. Later on one of the most important contributions made by these papers was create a unity among the Indian readers during the Swadeshi Movement. In Tikal’s words he explained about the nature of ‘Kesari’ as – “‘Kesari will fearlessly and impartially discuss all problems. The increasing mentality of appeasing the British is not in the interest of this country. The articles published in ‘Kesari’ will be apt for its name ‘Kesari (lion)’ ”.
The paper had a Sanskrit verse printed near the editorial, the translation of the verse meant a warning to an intoxicated elephant to not enter the forest as the lion in the forest was used to destroying huge rocks thinking of them as elephants. The meaning of the Marathi word Kesari is ‘a lion’ and the addressed and warned the intoxicated elephant not to go in the forest, for there was a lion used to tearing the huge rocks mistaking them for elephants.
This would not have been possible if Tilak through his newspaper had not created a belief in his readers. His personality and ideology came across in his papers. As an editor he believed that his paper was meant for the greater good of the society and there would be no compromise on this ideal. . He used it as a platform to discuss various issues like government policies, politics, education and social issues Time and time again he had to go through various difficulties for pursuing ‘fearless journalism’.
Tilak and Agarkar were one of the first journalists against whom and deformation case was filed by Shri Barwe. This case is known as the ‘Kolhapur Kesari Episode’. Shri Barwe was the manager of the Diwaan of Kolhapur. An article published in the Kesari alleged that the Maharaja was being conspired against and his being stated as ‘mad’ was a conspiracy on the British government behalf. Tilak and Agarkar lost the case and were given a sentence of 4 months. It was only after the sentence that Tilak felt that he should become active in politics.
He put forth rational thoughts in his editorials. In the 1897 famine, he wrote in his articles about the ‘Famine Relief Code’ which forced the British government to take action and help the people. Tilak also appealed the masses to stand up for their rights. He also criticised intellectuals like Namdhar Gokhale who believed in following the British charter as ground rule for the anti government movements. Tilak objected by saying that since the government was foreign there was no need to follow their charter; India would need its own charter.
After the assassination of Mr. Rand in 1897, the government in order to bring the culprits into light became atrocious. The police authorities used ruthless repression in order to strike terror in the hearts of the people. Young men were rounded up and put in prison without notice. There were no trials and rights were suspended. Tilak agreed that the culprits should be brought to the court in his articles but he also mentioned on how the government had been insensitive to the people during the trying times of the plague. In his articles, he wrote fearlessly that the government had itself called for this sort of unrest. He further mentioned that though he did not support the violence but these young men are not left with any choice, he was quoted ‘men would be forced to pick up arms’. Rationality was the core frame of Tilak’s ideas and belief.
Tilak in his defense argued in the Court for 21 hours against the charges of treason filed against him. He clarified that the newspapers have a right to form public opinion and it is the duty of a newspaper to bring to the notice of the Government the nature of powers created in the political life of a country. The speech given by Tilak in the High Court was not an intellectual exercise to protect self but it showed his extra-ordinary qualities like his rationality in thinking, deep study of law, his love for the nation and his readiness to go through any punishment for his principles. All those who heard him pleading his case, experienced his nobility. As the judges declared him ‘guilty’, Judge Davar asked Tilak whether he wanted to say something. Tilak was quoted , “I am not an offender or guilty let the jury decide anything. There is a supreme power than this Court which controls worldly matters. It could be God’s wish that I get punishment so as to boost the mission that I have undertaken.”
Tilak as an editor was an inspiring figure to all those who worked under him and even to those who got influenced by his work. He became a public figure and took pride in the Indian culture. He wanted people to have aspirations and make the government aware of its short comings. He was a strong supporter of the freedom of press and in its power to influence and motivate people to believe for their own betterment. His editorials revolved around social awakening.
His was the generation which demanded to be heard in their country by their people. The moment ‘kesari’ came to print to every moment of his struggle, he kept creating history and this is the reason why the news media/print media is still strong in India because people did connect to the papers they read. Tilak believed in giving candy floss and not in how much money or how it was going to be made.



An image of countless devotees surrounding an Idol of Lord Ganesha before immersion in Mumbai, Maharshtra


It is that time of the year, when devotees across the country in general and those living in the state of Maharashtra in particular, celebrate the most awaited festival, the Ganesha Chaturthi. Surrounded by much fanfare, the creative aspect of the human mind comes to the fore as more and more people come up with unprecedented ideas every year. Right from spreading awareness about the use of eco-friendly idols and the various drives to clean up the beaches during immersion, to the most innovative ways of making idols, the year 2012 has witnessed many novel instances worth glancing at. Let us take a look at what was so special about the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations, this year.

The most striking feature, post idol immersion, was the level by which the Plaster of Paris (PoP) litter has come down this year. The sight of broken pieces of PoP has always been usual at various beaches in Mumbai. But with aggressive campaigns supporting the use of eco-friendly idols, this year’s celebration has led to less litter in the city. This year, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board (MPCB) has successfully sold as many as fifty thousand eco-friendly idols to the people. In an interview with DNA (Daily News and Analysis), Mumbai, the member secretary of MPCM talked about how they have been making rigorous efforts to spread awareness about the harmful effects of using other forms of idols. He says, “Idols made of PoP take months to dissolve in waterleading to water pollution and litter in the beaches. Though there are strict laws with respect to water pollution, certain limitations come into play during grand festivals such as these. The only way to get the message across is via campaigns.”

Eco-friendly Ganesha Idols sold by Maharshtra Pollution Control Board

“This year we sold fifty thousand eco-friendly idols from all the 45 distribution outlets spread across Pune, Kolhapur, Nagpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and the rest of the state,” he further adds.

Celebrities and students have also been contributing immensely to this cause. Actress Kajol encouraged Mumbaikars to buy eco-friendly Ganapati idols this year. Actress Rani Mukherjee also showed enthusiasm by being a part of the annual cultural festival called Kaleidoscope conducted by Sophia College for Women, Mumbai. She talked to the students about the importance of resorting to eco-friendly idols. Actress Kareena Kapoor also showed her support in preserving the environment by participating in DNA’s eco-friendly Ganesha initiative.

Actress Kajol talking to Mumbaikars about eco-friendly Ganpati idols in Mumbai

With the drive and campaigns in full swing, the students of RD National College set an example before the city by volunteering to clean up the debris in Juhu beach during and after the idol immersion. A group comprising seven students belonging to BMM (Bachelor of Mass Media), gathered a huge crowd of students who were willing to clean up the mess. In collaboration with BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation), the students collected garbage in over 100 bags. Such initiatives by students not only show the level of awareness among but also the dedication and sincerity with which they do their bit in keeping the city clean.

Apart from the eco-friendly drive, another striking feature of this year’s Ganesha Chaturthi celebration was Mr. Mohan Kumar Dodecha’s unique tribute to the Lord. The 66-year-old made a Ganpati Rangoli from Sabudana (Sogo) at Mulund, making it both to the Limca Book of Records and the Guiness Book of Records. The Rangoli was designed using 60 kg of Sabudana coloured in different shades.

An image of Mohan Kumar Dodecha making rangoli out of Sabudana at Mulund in Mumbai

Yet another instance of Innovative Ganesha idols was found at Hypercity stores in Mumbai. A strikingly vibrant idol of artifial Cadbury Gems Ganesha was set up at all the hypercity stores in the city. The idols that stood five feet tall were made using artificially created gemsof six different colours. The collection was exclusive and affordable.

An Idol of Lord Ganesha at HyperCITY made of artificially created Cadbury Gems

As can be seen, the Ganesha Chaturthi Celebrations are no more the same as they used to be a decade ago, as more and more people have decided to take a turn for the good. The celebrations are bettering themselves not only in terms of grandeur and innovation but level of responsibility as well.




7 Trends for the Week

Fashion keeps on changing and so do trends. Trends in fashion means when somehow, large number of people sport the same style of lowers or wear the same accessory or carry the same bag. Be it Zara or Causeway, Mango or Linking Road, Accessorize or Hill Road. Girls will search the market in and out for that top that is in trend.

Sometimes trends come back. Once an apparel which was worn by a particular section at a particular time repeats itself at another time with a different set of people.

This article will take you through 7 such trends which have a unique history and discovering their possible inspirations. These fashion articles have come back with large audiences wearing them.

1)Polka  dotted  shirts-

Where did Polka dots come into fashion?

The Polka Dot fever started with the dance form called ‘The Polka’ in Europe.  It is believed that dresses of polka dots were generally worn during dancing.

Polka dots hit a new peak in popularity with the introduction of ‘Minnie Mouse’ by Walt Disney. In the 1920’s Polka dotted swimsuits were on the rise. The design can also be copied from the disease ‘Chicken Pox’.








Chicken Pox and Marilyn Monroe in a Polka dotted Swimsuit

Polka dotted pants, tops and other accessories can be found in Zara, Mango, Westside. A tour in Phoenix Mills and Palladium and one can buy a Polka dotted apparel with ease. And then after owning one she will eventually polka dance with delight.











Polka dotted shirt and Polka dotted coloured pants

2)Applique  shirts-

An appliqué is a smaller ornament applied to another surface. In the context of ceramics, for example, an appliqué is a separate piece of clay added to the primary work, generally for the purpose of decoration.

The term is borrowed from French and, in this context, means “applied” or “thing that has been applied.”

Appliqué was first discovered when clothes which were ripped and needed fixing. To make the cloth wearable it was sewn with different patches on top of the torn part.

In the context of sewing, an appliqué refers to a needlework technique in which pieces of fabric, embroidery, or other materials are sewn onto another piece of fabric to create designs, patterns or pictures.A famous example of appliqué is the Hastings Embroidery, it shows 81 great events in British history during the 900 years from 1066 to 1966. It took 22 embroiderers over 10 months to finish.

The design can also be inspired from the Ralli quilts of Indian and Pakistan textiles.












The Hatings embroidery and the Ralli Quits of Indian and Pakistani textiles.










Applique on top collars.

3)Harem Pants-

Harem Pants are believed to be originated in India. Salwaar kammez and chudidaar have been traditional Indian attire since a long time in history. Though the Zouaves who hailed from North Africa and who were recruited in the French army also wore pants very similar to that of the Harem.











Patiala pants and a Zouaves from North Africa

The Harem pants is considered to be comfortable and loose. Every girl owns atleast one of these pants. From expensive ones in Zara and Promod, the best ones one can get are form Hill Road or Causeway.












Colourful Harem Pants and Leather printed Harem Pants.

4)Peplum  tops-

The peplum was a design worn by women in Ancient Greece. It was also worn by Spartan women.












A Spartan women wearing a peplum top and an ancient Greek statue showing a woman wearing a peplum top on a skirt.

The trend is back with a bang! Peplum skirts, tops and dresses have decorated mannequins all over the big stores. Though one needs a little bit of grace to carry of the style few good ones can be found in Palledium.












Peplum tops can be worn with jeans, skirts or shorts.

5)Owl necklace-

The Owl necklace entered market like a storm. Everyone seemed enchanted with the idea of wearing an Owl around her neck.









The necklace is very common and nearly goes with any color or material. The design of the necklace can be inspired by, and I am extremely sure of this piece of information, the Nighty Owl.










Different coloured Owl Necklaces

6)Gladiator Shoes-

This type of footwear was inspired by the Roman Gladiatiors. Galdiators are armed, skilled and professional fighters. They usually fight for the entertainment of the Roman elite. The footwear that they used to wear were supposed to be made in a way which was durable and comfortable.










The Roman soldiers wearing their shoes which is part of their fighting attire.

The trend for gladiator shoes surfaced in 2008 when everyone was sporting a sandal like that.Hill Road is the best option for buying these kind of shoes.












Gladiator shoes worn till the ankle.

7)Sling bags-

Sling bags have been in fashion for a very  long time now. The trend emerging in 2009. The design can be inspired by a messenger bag which is also worn the same way.










They are comfortable and stylish.










Sling bags with chains.

Mumbai celebrates Navroz

The Agyaris and Atash Behram temples in the city buzzed with activity on the eve of Navroz or Parsi New Year, on Saturday, as hundreds of men, women and children belonging to the Parsi Community queued up to worship the holy fire. With two-thirds of India’s Parsi population living in Mumbai, the celebrations in the city were quite palpable.

The week before the Navroz is marked by a period called Mukhthad and Gatha.  The Mukhthad is a period of mourning for the community as it cherishes the memories of both joy and pain that the previous year bestowed upon it, while readying itself for a new year that would mark a new beginning.

“It is believed that during Mukhthad, our ancestors and those loved ones who have passed over to the other side, come back on earth to feast with us. We believe that it is they who grant us this New Year”, says Tushna Mistry, a final year student of Sophia College. During this period the fire temples are cleaned and decorated by those who maintain the premises.  Devotees throng the Agyaris to pay their respects to the departed. “I lost my aunt this year. So we went to Banajee  Atash Behram at Churney Road to pay her our respects. Usually, one leaves a silver vase with fresh flowers on the many marble top tables that the temples provide. One may also leave food and fruits for the souls. It signifies that we invite them to the feast”, adds Tushna.

The Mukhthad is followed by Gatha in which one does not cut nails or hair. This period is considered sacred and no part of the body no matter however miniscule must be shed. The day before the New Year is called ‘Pateti’. Pateti ends the period of mourning and the Parsis wish each other ‘Pateti Mubarakh,’ praying for good luck and a beautiful year ahead. The next day is what every Parsi awaits excitedly. It is a day of celebrating togetherness.

“Our Navroz begins at six in the morning unlike the midnight hour of December 31st that you guys celebrate every year’, says a smiling Mrs Anahita Mistry, a home maker. “We take a head bath early in the morning. Little children are bathed in milk and rose petals. New clothes are worn especially the Sadra and the Kasti. Sadra is a thin vest like silk shirt that is worn inside. Kasti is the holy thread that men wear. Much like the ones that Brahmins in the Hindu community don. The women in the house decorate the doors with garlands of flowers and glass beads called the ‘Toran’,” she adds.

The members of the Parsi community then visit the Agyaris and pay their respects to the fire. “Our God is the Fire. We call our God ‘Ahura Mazda’. Just like the Muslims, we do not have a picture of our God. But we worship our Prophet Zarathrushtra. On occasions such as these, the Agyaris are lit with lamps and decorated with flowers. You will not find a single artificial decorative in the entire temple”, says Mr. Kirsy Mistra, a resident of Mumbai.

The celebration immediately begins after the prayers. Members of families gather and have ‘Jashan’. “We Parsis love food. It is mainly the coming together of families and having toothsome delicacies that holds real significance on the New Year. Our breakfast consists of Rava or Sev cooked with sugar. The lunch is called Dhansak  in which we have Mutton Biryani, Mutton and chicken Dal and Kebabs”, says Pakshad Mistry, a school student.  “There are Parsi-Gujarati plays called Nataks that take place on New Year. Mostly belonging to the comedy genre, it is fun to watch them too”, he adds.

The Parsis are an adorable bunch of people. To celebrate the New Year with them teaches one a lot about their culture and traditions.

– Neelkamal Mishra

TYBMM Journalism

Sophia College for Women

Dhundhli Hai Aaj Kanha Ke Bansuri Ki Dhun

The future of our country is in the hands of the “Youth”!

Oh definitely! “Youth” fixating on the oh-so-awesome rap music and dancing to house, techno and hip-hop tracks makes reminiscent of what it used to be like when the Garbe Geet were pure and devoid of remixes interspersed with senseless english words like “baby” and “you drive me crazy”, and the prayers were reverb-free. In a country with 28 states (and hopefully no more), scores of languages, hundreds of dialects and thousands of Gods (so much for delayed wishful thinking) and cultural heritage thick and delicious as Rabdi , Saakli and pakda-pakdi has been replaced by Nintendo Wii, switches by remote controls, rooftop summer nights by year-long air conditioning. If it were possible, India would be another Western Country in the East (applause for the youth)

In times like this, I am grateful somethings never change. At least not so speedily.


Its half past midnight. Slight drizzle. The unusual Mumbai monsoon. “Yaha baaju mai laga do” I tell the autowala as he approaches this building. The numerous strings of lights hanging down from the terrace of the 2 storey building and the sounds of the shankha and bells immediately draw my attention. I walk into the compound. Here I am, for my annual pilgrimage to the “Brindavan Gurukul” – Pt.Hariprasad Chaurasia’s Gurukul in Andheri. Versova to be precise.

On every Janmashtami, as has been the tradition since more than 26 years  now (If I am not wrong), Panditji , the great exponent of Basuri (Indian Bamboo Flute) and one of Indian classical music’s living legends, and his students pay their respects to the ultimate musician – Lord Krishna.

The Gurukul has 3 rooms on the ground floor. The central one is where the idols of Krishna & Radha have been installed. A small room to the right serves as the kitchen and one on the left, is where Panditji teaches his students. There are two floors above. I have never been upstairs though.

The Janmashtami celebrations start off with a pooja offered to the Lord. Done in traditional Hindu rituals, it sets the devotional and celebratory tone for the day. At promptly 12.30am, the aarti is sung. All 200 odd devotees (of Krishna or of Panditji, I could not tell which) present, take part in the aarti. And then as soon as the rituals end (the moment for which everyone has been waiting) Panditji , with his basuri, takes his seat right next to the idols Everyone settles down and the incredible rendering of the most melodious instrument begins. This will continue for the whole day i.e. 24 hours (that’s right), till next midnight.

Now Indian classical music has a very rich past. The depth and the variety of the music, though difficult to grasp at first , is very enriching. As we know, our music draws a lot from our philosophy and spirituality. In fact the birth of music and dance in India, in the Vedic period that is, was aimed at worshipping the Almighty. The performances would take place in the temple courtyards. Later shifting to the royal courts and now of course to air-conditioned auditoriums.

Why I am delving into this is because this event, the Janmashtami celebrations at Brindavan Gurukul, is not just another Classical concert, where the artist plays to please the audience. Here the artist plays for the Lord, facing the temple, offering all that he has learnt over the many decades. The audience sits, on the “dari”, very close to the Guru, and the Lord. The music played is without any restrictions, straight from the soul. This is what makes this event, this celebration very pure and an experience you will never forget.

Panditji started off with the Queen of all Raagas, Raag Yaman. He extensively played the Alap-Jod-Jhala, almost lasting 2 hours, followed by a couple of compositions. He was supported by his students, including Rupak Kulkarni – one of his very talented disciples. Pt. Bhawani Shankar accompanied him on the Pakhwaj along with Pt. Anutosh Digharia on Tabla.

I reluctantly left at 4 in the morning. Panditji also left at around the same time, only to come back afresh during the day to continue the musical offerings till midnight. His students however would continue in his absence.

The 3-4 hours that I spent there, reinforced my faith in Indian classical music. It is rigorous, highly complex, intuitive and soul stirring at the same time.

For those who have keen interest in music (and even for those who don’t ) I would advise you to come to Brindavan Gurukul on Janmashtami next year, which Google says is on Wednesday , 28th August 2013. The experience, a refreshing change from this life (if it is even worth living), would be undoubtedly unforgettable.


Disha Deshpande.

Photo credits: Google Images.


15th August 1947, it is a milestone in the history of India. After hundred years of struggle, we finally got our freedom from the British. India became a free Nation on this glorious day. Is glorious the right word for this day? Well exactly, I don’t know that. Are we as a country, successful in preserving our freedom? I don’t know this either. My mind was overlapping with these questions today, when I had to decide on the colour of clothes I was to wear for my College flag hoisting Program. Unlike all years, I was lacking interest in the whole aspect of celebrating Independence Day. At first, I thought I would wear Indian attire, with tricolor combination, but I end up wearing black and white contrast. Well western and colour combination doesn’t matter, the point that I want to make is that as an aspiring journalist, I couldn’t think of a reason to commemorate Independence day. India, country of numerous festivals, has the culture of wearing colourful clothes on festivals and 15th August is the most important day for any Indian.  I as an Indian couldn’t find a reason to be motivated on this day. We remember this occasion because of the above-mentioned reasons but one cannot ignore that our nation was also divided into two pieces of land on this same day. In addition, nobody can ignore the fact that we are still facing its consequences.

As a female, what is there to be proud of being born in India? Even after 66 years of Independence, we have perfect examples like Guwahati Molestation case, naked women paraded in Orissa in front of her husband and she recently died as she couldn’t recover from the head injurious she got on the day of incident. Women are easily targeted in any kind of criminal approach. Partition of our country gives us the clear picture of crimes against women. There used to be sacks full of breasts on the trains crossing the border of India and Pakistan. Women of both the communities were picked up like a material and then raped, killed or forced to marry an unknown man and convert into his religion. Moreover, this is still happening in Pakistan. Case of Rinkle Kumari now known as Faryal Bibi is a 19 year Pakistani girl, who was kidnapped and supposedly forced to convert from Hinduism to Islam and marry Muslim Naveed Shah. Past is influencing the present. Well past is gone and we can’t do anything now but what about things that are happening in this 21st century.

Mumbai, city known for being slightly safer for women than other parts of the nation is now facing numerous cases of crimes against women. Recently on August 11, 2012, there was a protest on Azad Maidan Mumbai for supporting the muslim victims of Assam Riot and expressing disappointment on Congress’s failure in controlling the issue. This protest ended in violence as there were few people attending this protest with the intention of creating riot. In this whole act, women constables were molested and their weapons were taken away by the mob.

When so many things are happening in this country then what is there to celebrate? Unknowingly I wore black and white but it gave me a reason to think about my country. For how long we can ignore things that are happening around us. Yes, there are good and positive things taking place in this Nation but by just remembering them on our Independence Day will be absolutely wrong. We have to look forward towards the solution of the problems arising in different sectors of our Nation.

Unnati Maharudra


Exploring the Marathi Cuisine

One of the first things that a travel journalist explores about a place is not as much the landscape or people as the special cuisine of that region. Again, cuisine does not just refer to a Sada or Masala Dosa of Kerala or Vada Pav of Mumbai or the Pan Cakes of Odisha. These are food items available across the country or globe for that matter. A travel journalist has accomplished his/ her duty if he/ she has made the efforts to sneak into the kitchens of ardent natives of that particular region and aimed at connecting the very many unique food items with the celebrations and culture. Also, given, how cross cultural our states are, one encounters myriad culinary delights within just one state. My intention in this particular feature is to explore Maharashtra cuisine and its beautiful culture along the way.


Let us begin with what is known as the staple food of Maharashtra. As we all know, Maharashtra is one of the largest agrarian states in the country. Its staple food originates from the homes of countless farmers who heavily rely on carbohydrates for energy. It is famously called “Zhunka Bhakri.” Bhakri refers to Roti made of Bajra. And Zhunka is a Dal like curry prepared from Besan that is cooked with salt, chillies and onions. This is often accompanied with “Mirchi ki Chutney” or chutney made out of green chillies. This preparation is often eaten on a daily basis in various parts of Maharashtra. Among them are Kolhapur, Solapur, Nagpur, Jalgaon and Vidarbha. In the elite parts of Maharashtra, this particular food item is cooked with other spices and condiments, and served in big restaurants, corporate office canteens and so forth as a “Maharashtra special”. But in common households, a simple Zhunka Bhakri along with raw onions, a pinch of salt and a freshly prepared Mirchi ki Chutney is eaten with great delight.


The next food item on the list celebrates the sense of community. I’m sure not many are aware of this culture that marks out Jalgaon from all other towns. It is the famous “Bharit Party,” Bharit referring to “Baigun ka Bharta,” Eggplant Curry being a loose translation of it in English. Mostly, during summer nights, several families within an immediate neighbourhood gather in a garden to celebrate this party. Men folks build a bonfire and set up a grilled mesh to roast Eggplants. The eggplants are roasted while the families gathered sing songs and engage in interactive activities. After the eggplants are roasted properly, the skin is peeled and the soft part of the vegetable is mashed along with salt and spices. They then sit together and eat the Bharit along with “Jowari Bhakri” or Rotis made of Jowar that the women make before hand in their homes and carry in casseroles. A sense of belonging coupled with delicious food that one witnesses in Jalgaon is absolutely exemplary.


“Holi re Holi, Pooraanchi Poli,” is a famous line that Maharashtrians sing as they celebrate the colourful festival of Holi. “Pooran Poli” tops a typical Marathi cuisine list. Poli in Marathi means Paratha and Pooran refers to the ground mixture of Chana Daal or chickpea lentils, Saffron, Cardamom, sugar and nutmeg that is stuffed into the Parathas. This particular item becomes an indispensable part of the Marathi cuisine. It is served as a dessert along with Gur or jaggery on festivals like the Padwa, or Marathi New Year, Holi and so forth.


“Deva Shree Ganesha,” and “Modak” go hand in hand in this very colourful state of Maharashtra. Lord Ganesha being the principal deity of the state is loved, pampered and showered with great affection, so much so, that he even has his favourite sweet dumpling, the Modak. Be it a small pandal or a Siddhi Vinayak, the festival is marked by quintals of delicious Modaks being distributed among countless devotees.  It is interesting to note that the ambrosia is prepared in different styles in different parts of the state. The standard method of preparing Modaks is by kneading dough. The stuffing that goes into the soft Modak consists of grated coconut, sugar and jaggery that is deep fried in oil. The dough is rolled on a floured surface and the stuffing is place at the centre. Then the soft floury exterior is given interesting shapes. In places like Mumbai and Ratnagiri, this Modak is boiled inside a pressure cooker. In other places like Pune, Nashik and Vidarbha, the same preparation is fried in oil or ghee. Often referred to as the Modakpriya (the one who likes Modak), Lord Ganesha definitely gives us all a chance to enjoy the unique and delicious sweet that sweetens the occasion manifold.


With Diwali come dishes like Chakli or Murukku. A widely available snack now, Chakli is made in almost every Marathi household on the occasion of Diwali, the festival of light. It resembles a Jalebi in terms of shape but it is crunchy and spicy in taste.


Another item that requires special mention is Karanji. The exterior is made of Rava and Maida. It contains a sweet stuffing of mainly coconut, sugar and honey is deep fried in oil. Being one of the “Panch Pakwaan” or five main dishes that are served to Goddess Laxmi during Diwali, the Karanji is a favourite among almost every Maharashtrian.

There are very many delicacies besides those mentioned above. For instance, the Tamda Rassa (Red Curry) and Pandhra Rassa ( White Curry), a spicy preparation very unique to South Maharashtra. It is often eaten with non vegetarian items like Chicken, fish and others. Then there is the “Thetcha”, a spicy chutney of red chillies, that forms an integral part of the Marathwada cuisine. The Sev Bhaaji and Pav Bhaaji that is available in almost every restaurant across the country. As we see, the Marathi cuisine ranges from extremely spicy delicacies to extremely sweet desserts and dumplings. But with every food item, there is a festival, a sentiment or some traditional culture attached. One must come to Maharashtra and explore the myriad culinary delights that the huge state has to offer.





Mumbai and its moments…

The hot, sticky weather annoys you? Does it seem like life has its own different pace in here? Does the friendly, helpful nature of people guiding you to your destination astonish you? Have you been dragged in and out of the local train, without you even walking a step ahead? And do you lose yourself in the fresh salty air, standing at the Marine Drive? Then yes, you are definitely in Mumbai- the city of dreams!
Mumbai is a city which is loved and hated in equal measure by people across the world who visit or live in it. Some don’t stop cribbing about the horrible traffic and the humidity that disrupts their entire day while some just can’t get over the city’s spell over oneself. The tradition of having ‘vada pav’ for a quick breakfast with friends so that our tummies are at least a little full before the 8 am lecture at college; long walks with friends on Marine Drive, especially when its drizzling; breakfast at the famous- Mondegar restaurant; long drives with friends on the sea-link; cheap and beautiful clothes and accessory shopping at Colaba -causeway; making a large group of people (usually friends of friends) along with our friend circle for dinner at a good place in Bandra just so that the cost of the combined bill can be equally split amongst all of us in order to save some money, and so on.

Mumbai is probably one of the only cities left in India, which has more or less managed to retain a certain edge of the country’s glorious past in its boundaries. The old monuments, Museums, forts- from the time the British ruled India still adore the city.

Flora Fountain at night

The ‘Flora Fountain’ is a stone fountain made completely of Portland stone and was constructed in 1864. It is situated in South Mumbai and it is said that it was regarded as a heritage structure that soothes the passers-by with water.

Another example of historical nostalgia is the Chhtrapati Shivaji Terminus or CST, whose construction started in 1889 and was completed in 1897. It is said to be a mixture of styles from the traditional Indian architecture and the Victorian Italianate Gothic Revival architecture. It is regarded as an illustration of the nineteenth century railway architecture marvels. The list is endless.







When talking about nostalgia, how can one forget about the famous Mumbai rains? Everyone has been missing the usual rainy weather in the city as this time the rains are having its own mood swings regarding its grand arrival in many parts of Mumbai. This year’s rainfall levels are scanty, spelling trouble for the agricultural farmers and heavy cut-offs in water and electricity supply. Even though the rains disrupts the daily commuting routine for working people and college-goers; however this doesn’t stop people- young, old and children alike to enjoy whatever rains they are getting. Enjoying steaming hot bhutta with lemon and masala or pakodas with green chutney along with a cup of hot chocolate/tea/coffee just makes one’s day in this season. Its unpredictable nature is what is liked as well as disliked by different people. At one point, it’s sunny and warm and the very next minute, it starts raining! The rains may not too joyful for people who live on the streets or in slums- with their rooftops leaking water and homes flooded with muddy water. But nevertheless, even the street children come out in the rain- dancing and singing to glory.

This is Mumbai- where each and every festival from diverse religions is celebrated with equal enthusiast and devotion as any other Hindu or Maharashtra-centered festival; where people find happiness in small-small wonders; where people help others in need- whether it is about guiding somebody to their destination or standing up and helping a person in need; where the traffic drives you crazy but makes you realize that you are in one of the most busiest but loving cities in the entire country.


—Sakshi Raina

Deva Shree Ganesha

A take on one of the most awaited festival of the city

By Niyati Agrawal

The month of July and August bring a new wave of enthusiasm to Mumbaikars. With a list of festivals lined up, they gear up for Raksha Bandhan, Janamashtmi,  Friendship’s Day, Parsi New Year, Eid, to name a few. But with all this there is something else that excites them – the blue plastic tents with the plain mud-white unfinished Ganesh idols peeping out. The moment one sees those tents, they know Ganesh Chaturthi is round the corner.

The first time when this festival was celebrated is not known but the first time it was celebrated as an organized public event was in 1893. This act was initiated by Lokmanya Tilak with the idea of bringing together people from different communities. He also facilitated poetry recitals, performance of plays, musical concerts etc. that were spread over 10 days of celebration.

Even today, after 119 years this festival is celebrated with the same intention. Haters complain that this festival has been commercialized. They complain to the police if the bhajans on loud speakers are on in the afternoon or if the prasad that is served in the form of dinner goes on beyond 10 in the night and they cannot stand the clattering of utensils.

But is the festival really commercialized?

This festival is a huge event in the suburbs. Housing societies bring huge idols and organize a range of events for the members of the society to enjoy. These functions range from games to mata ki chowki to organizing competitions and even getting underprivileged kids or women and organizing lunch or workshops for them which would help them.

It is been noted over a lot of societies that Ganesh Chaturthi has the highest number of attendance compared to any other events or festival they organize. People attending aarti do not only comprise of ladies or old people. The kids also have an equal participation in it. Some societies have the youth organizing the entire celebration with minimal help from their parents and other people from the society and they end up doing a very good job.

It is a very good sight to see when someone who doesn’t know a word of Marathi offering the entire prayer in it, and understanding the meaning of what he or she is saying. This festival has also taught the younger generation the Marathi traditional folk dance – Lezim. It is not only the maharashtrians who perform it. Sure they perform it well but people from other religion also join in on the fun. Traditional food of different states is also offered as prasad in some societies.

Not only societies but several other non-profit organizations organize Ganapati pandals all over the suburbs. No road you walk on is without a Ganesh pandal. These are open the whole day. Anyone can go in and offer prayers. The organizers or care takers of these pandals will welcome you with a very warm smile. Religion, caste, gender, class are the words forgotten during the 10 days of this festival.

Competitions are organized these days for the Best Pandal or Best Idol. Most of these titles are given on the basis of how eco friendly the organization has been while celebrating this festival. So if these competitions are promoting eco-friendly messages and driving people to celebrate the festival in a way that it is enjoyable for all then there really isn’t a problem with it.

The city is alive for these 10 days. Colorful pandals, bhajans and music everywhere, people coming home early from work to take part in the festivities, the dancing on the road during the visarjan or while getting the idol home, staying with your friends and family till late hours in the night are just a few things to name that people do. The joys, the exhilaration, the excitement, the enthusiasm, the feeling of oneness, the celebration are just a few feelings that people experience over the festival. And once the visarjan is done, the city goes dull again. People have to go back to their regular routines, the only music is that of the car honking and colors are of the politician banners or cars.

The festival still brings together people of all age groups and religion. It promotes the age old culture of the country while adapting to the future. Depending on the organization, it is promoting eco friendly practices and helping the underprivileged.

So do you still think that this festival is commercialized? I think not.