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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Diwali Gifts with a difference

Diwali in the distant past

Diwali gifts at one time meant new clothes given by my parents, a small token of cash given by my father for Padwa and another gift of cash given by my brother for BhauBeej and some more cash from other relatives whom we met during Diwali. We made or bought Diwali cards which we sent to relatives and friends and we dropped off home made sweets to our neighbours on Diwali day. This was how I celebrated Diwali while growing up.

Changing times

Diwali gifts took on an entirely new dimension after I got married. Being part of  a business family we often got gifts from business associates. A few days before Diwali would come baskets laden with fruit: dozens of sweetlime, a pineapple or two, half a dozen oranges, some apple and chickoo and if the merchant was generous some pomegranate too! The huge big basket covered with gelatine paper would be hauled into the kitchen after they were delivered by either the office peon or the delivery boy. Since we weren't too sure whether the gifts would be delivered in person, we had to dress up in our diwali finery to receive the merchants and offer them cups of tea and  home made sweets in return.

Gradually, gift giving became more impersonal and more sophisticated. Gone were the shabbily dressed delivery boys and gone too were the merchants who preferred to send gifts smartly packed with their drivers or office boys. Baskets of fresh fruit were replaced by boxes of dry fruit - kilos of cashew and almond, with some raisins thrown in. A generous merchant would add pistachios as well as dried figs or then sweetmeats made out of dry fruit.

The Dry Fruit Box became more and more ostentatious as the years went by - with tiny compartments stuffed with some amount of assorted dry fruit - fig, cashew, pistachio, apricot and stuffed dates. For a while these boxes would contain a cashew marzipan biscuit like discs which supposedly lasted for months if they were not eaten up in minutes. Sometimes dry fruit were gifted in fancy plastic boxes or in fancy storage bottles that could be kept on the dining table or side board. These have long since lost currency as have dried fruit which have since been replaced by chocolates and designer sweet meats. It was fun opening boxes with elaborate or elegant wrapping to uncover some hidden delights beautifully packaged and delightful to taste.

Diwali Gifts now

Gradually the gifts became less ornate and more practical and even unique. With merchants being replaced by corporates, the gifts became more sophisticated. Pens, coffee mugs, small electronic items , "novelty" items became the rage. Gift giving took on new proportions with Trade Fairs for gifts being organised so that corporates could find  gifts that suited their image.

Yesterday I got a Diwali gift from Manvinder Dawer of India Fine Art  an art gallery at Famous Studios Tardeo who is the only dealer of T.Vaikuntam in the city - a set of coasters printed with Vaikuntam's work.

Thank you for your Diwali gift Mani.

Happy Diwali to all those celebrating the festival and good wishes to those who are not!

I am linking this post to WriteTribe ProBloggers Daily Writing Challenge

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Arnab's Loud Noises replace Crackers this Diwali

Normally weeks before Diwali, the fire crackers start bursting and the noise about Diwali makes itself heard. Surprisingly this year it has been pretty quiet and I am willing to bet will be pretty silent. Is it finally dawning on people that we need peace and quiet and not NOISE to celebrate the festival of light?

Or does this mean that people don't have money to blow on needless expenses like crackers and are tightening their belts ?

Or does it just mean that everyone has gone out of town to celebrate?

Whatever the reason, it is pretty quiet so I wonder if this message sent by a friend has any real relevance?

But nonethess, I thought it worth sharing with all those who have to  fall asleep with Arnab and his gang barking in the background night after night.

Happy Diwali!

p.s. One of the best wishes I've received so far has been a set of coasters specially made for Fine Art Gallery by the famous artist Vaikuntam

When Strangers become friends

Blogadda's latest initiative to get bloggers to collaborate over a story to #celebrateblogging was a unique idea. All bloggers who registered for this online contest were divided into teams of ten each who I presume were chosen at random (or was there an algorithm at work here?). Each team was given a set of five characters with which we had to spin a story. This collaborative effort meant that each one of us had to write a blog taking the story forward - rather like the game of "I went to market and bought a......" a popular birthday party game when I was growing up. And there was a deadline to be met which made it all the more thrilling.

The Spellbinders

When the news of our teams were announced to us, it was only a matter of minutes before some of us became active and immediately formed a group, a group name, identity and logo and began brainstorming. It was apparent that these were the younger lot with boundless enthusiasm and energy. They also had better computer skills and were very tech savvy. My team members consisted of Ankita, Ankit, Bushra, Bhavya, Deepa, Farida, Kunal,Ryan, Ritu and myself. I think I was the eldest of the team( at any rate the only grandma) and Kunal the youngest. Before the end of the second round Ryan who is a surgeon in Mangalore became a first time father. Farida is a professional counsellor and Ritu a published author. So these two became the anchors for our team and Ritu particularly did a stellar performance in steering our ship. Bhavya volunteered to be our Team Leader and Kunal was the particularly vociferous one. Bushra brought in some extra bling to our story with her observation that our team needed more soul and emotion. Deepa who was really tied up with her own personal work caused a few moments of worry with her silence but then pulled her weight with her blog posts which ensured that our team wasn't eliminated.

The story

The moment our Whatsapp team was formed, ideas were exchanged and before we knew it our story became a thriller. Ankit wanted to add some supernatural/paranormal stuff and this was shot down, but mysteriously surfaced in the second round when it became key to our story. The first twenty four hours were spent in a lot of whatsapping and we almost missed the first entry deadline but we then managed to work out an outline for our story and each of us worked separately on our blogs so that we were ready to hit "publish" the moment we were tagged. This was a new experience for all of us and since it was a collaborative effort we wanted a consensus before publishing a blog post. So there were lots of messages going on late into the night and I even had to beg off a social engagement to make sure that I was on track with the rest of the team.

The experience

It was a unique experience all right - one that brought me into contact with nine people I'd never have met in my every day life - two bloggers from Bangalore, one blogger from Assam, two computer scientists, a surgeon, a fashionista, a psychotherapist and a professional author cum business executive. 

For those two weeks we were strangers who suddenly became friends, for whom barriers of age and profession didn't exist. We were so caught up in our story that for those two weeks all that we thought of was Shekhar and Tara and Cyrus and Jenny and not to mention Roohi the little moppet who for some strange reason became central to most stories. What was also funny was how so many teams automatically veered towards the thriller/mystery/supernatural genre. What was it that drove them so - the presence of Ashwin Sanghi and Ravi Subramaniam on the Jury?

I'll never really know but thanks Blogadda for this wonderful opportunity to meet such wonderful bloggers and experience a truly unique online event!

This is my post recounting my experience of Celebrate the Game of Blogs with CelebrateBlogging

Writing is easy but blogging is not

As a blogger sometimes I wonder what to write about....especially when it's for a campaign like the Write Tribe's Exciting October Daily writing challenge. I mean it's hard to write about yourself all the time because who really is interested in whether you spent the night tossing and turning? Whether you had a dreamless sleep? Whether your maid ditched you at the last moment? Whether your cake flopped? Whether you achieved your life time goal of getting up and going for a 5 km walk ?

Writing a blog especially one that is personal is difficult because one has to be engaging, amusing, entertaining and informative. But how many of us are really experts that we can speak with authority on anything? It is also difficult to write about oneself without turning into a braggart or a bore. Both are equally deplorable though I suppose a braggart will at least raise eyebrows rather than a bore who will only encourage yawns.
"Writing is the easiest part of blogging "
                                                      ~ Vidya Sury

Connecting with all the wonderful bloggers out there made me realise how inadequate my blogging skills were and how rudimentary my blog. Everyone else's blogs seem to be better in terms of content and composition. Yes, I know Corinne  in your latest post you said you were tired of keeping up with the blogging Joneses but it is hard not to see green when you see other bloggers blog effortlessly. How do they manage those clever headlines? How do they manage that engaging copy? How do they get the perfect graphics? And finally how do they get the time to do it all?

So last week I reached out to Vidya Sury and shared my blogging woes. Her advice was to reach out through social media, work on my blogs in terms of planning, taking original photographs, linking with relevant blogs and then ultimately just write because writing is the easiest part of blogging.

I didn't really buy that story till I found that yes indeed, writing can be the easiest part because planning a blog especially one to follow a meme or a theme does require some thinking. Taking photographs that are artistic and relevant is another job that requires time and effort. One has to keep an eye out for the perfect photograph.

Then if one wants to link posts, one has to read and scout around for related articles.

Finally what is most difficult is fitting all this in a busy day. Somehow everyday life has the knack of knocking on your door just when you are getting in the groove. The bell will ring or the phone will ring or someone will call out for your help/assistance in finding something totally inconsequential. But then as we go to answer the call of the bell or the call of duty, the moment of inspiration is past and once again we sit back in front of the computer, trying to recall that wonderful sentence that just set the tone for your wonderful blog post!

This post is linked to Write Tribe's ProBlogger Challenge

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Diwali a time for family

In today's world Diwali has become just another holiday and many people actually lock up their homes and take off on a break somewhere. Gone is the excitement of making new clothes, cleaning up the house , eating special food and making memories with family. This delightful message from Pepsico reminds us how fleeting time can be with families. 

It's not too late still to go home and celebrate Diwali.

This post is part of the Indiblogger Indi Happy Hours Campaign  and is linked to their Celebrate Diwali with Family theme.

Over the past fifty years I have celebrated many Diwalis , most happy and some sad sometimes with boisterous family gatherings  and sometimes in relative peace and quiet. One Diwali that stands out in my mind is the one we celebrated in Nagpur with Vachi Aji who was soon going to  wind up her establishment and move in with her son.She was the nicest of my grandma's sisters and as the youngest, the only one  to outlive her siblings.

Our  excitement began with the overnight  journey in a train that chugged along the countryside, further heightened by the change over to the coal engine, the games that we played with other people in the compartment and finally the tiny pig tail bobbing on the head of  Aji's Man Friday Tarachand  who had come to receive us at the station.

As we got out of the Ambassador taxi  Aji's old cocker spaniel lumbered out of the door, close on her heels as she came out to  like a Pooh Bear waddling from side to side to welcome us with a warm smile and bear hugs after we had bent down to touch her feet in respectful greeting. She herself couldn’t stop commenting on our soot blackened faces and warned us not to touch her shining brass tins filled with yummy Diwali goodies ( laddoo, chakli, shev, karanji,chivda) unless we washed up.

While the grownups gossiped, my cousins and I were given the run of the house. It was exciting to go around the huge gardens, exploring the numerous rooms and the large verandah that ran around the house.  We were also given the task of decorating the verandah and the outside with rangoli patterns and making  paper lanterns for Tarachand to hang.  As evening fell, he lined up the oil wick clay lamps all along the verandah flanking the lantern on the main doorway and when the sun set, the house looked magical with our little paper lanterns  dancing   in tandem with the flickering lamps below.

On Diwali morning we were woken up before day break and taken to the verandah at the back which led to the bath room where we found a row of wooden seats (paat) , decorated with rangoli  patterns and flickering clay lamps.

Even though it was really cold and we could see our breaths coming out of our mouths, Aji ignored our shivering and chattering teeth and insisted we strip down to our panties and sit so that she could begin her scented oil massage. Our protests that she was being rough were laughingly scoffed off with her explanation  that our  parched skins were crying out for nourishment just as our tired limbs were aching to be massaged and relaxed that only she could provide with her firm and loving hands.

One by one we were led into the bathroom, which filled up with steam as the water from the traditional coal fired water heater gushed into the shiny copper vessel below. Once again,  we were made to sit on a  paat and she rubbed us down with mixture of scented herbs, fresh cream and turmeric to wash off the oil and leave our skins gleaming and clean. When the last bit of hot water was poured over the head, Tarachand let off a volley of firecrackers, a strip for each one of us as we came out enveloped in soft towels. Then, all clean and dressed we were each of us given a lit phooljhadi to welcome the new dawn. 

Happy Diwali!