Sunday, October 27, 2013

Bhelwalla at Horniman Circle

- By Deepa Krishnan

Bhelpuri is a great leveller. I clicked this photo at Horniman Circle, at the heart of the financial district.
This bhelwalla has bankers and moneymakers queuing up for chana and bhel, alongside courier boys and labourers.
The new Starbucks is just across the street from the bhelwalla.
Inside Starbucks, it's a completely different world. I spotted SoBo teenagers doing a group-study thing, over expensive lattes, with fancy cell phones nearby. There were groups of foreigners with ipads and laptops. A security guard / doorman stood outside. It was a little upscale haven where the real world couldn't rudely intrude.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Festival season at Kumbharwada, Dharavi

- by Deepa Krishnan

With Diwali around the corner, the kilns at Kumbharwada are going non-stop. If you go now, you will see women and men working round the clock, selling the diyas and decorative pots that have been made specially for the festive season. 

I went on Saturday. Here is what I found:
With every available open space taken up, these diyas were being dried on top of a taxi
Large quantities of standard type diyas were being filled
into gunny bags and loaded into trucks for
sending to other parts of the city
They were being given a last wash in geru (red colour) and dried before packing.
Decorative diyas had been made using fancy moulds.
Some of them were ceramic as well.
I found a girl deftly painting designs with acrylic paint.
She was super-quick and efficient.
Her mother sat nearby doing the base colours.
They made a pretty picture, lined up in a row
Women managing the shop.
Behind the shop is the home and the kitchen.
And behind that is the workshop and kiln.
Purchase transaction in progress
Every visit to Kumbharwada teaches me the importance of cottage industries. When work and home location are combined, women become active participants in production. The separation of work and home, aka "industrialisation" is simply not set up with women's inclusion in mind. If you want to read Gandhi's views on the subject, they are here.

This is what I bought for myself:
The larger diya will go in the centre of my Diwali rangoli
There is something special about going to the source of a product and buying it directly from the community. To be able to do that in an urban environment like Mumbai is something even more special. Go visit Kumbharwada, buy some stuff!

Kumbharwada is really easy to get to. With Sion railway station on your right, walk towards Bandra. The first big left you see is called 90-Feet Road. About 500 meters down this road is Kumbharwada (on your left).

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Why I love Navratri season

- By Janaki Krishnan

For youngsters, Navratri is a time of dance and merriment, through playing dandiya with friends and loved ones. It is said that at the end of the nine nights, young people end up finding the perfect life partner. For older people, Navratri is a time to show their devotion through prayer and fasting. I don't fall into either of these categories, because I can neither dance nor fast!

But I still love Navratri. When I was in school, our house would host Navratri celebrations. My sister and I would go round inviting other South Indian ladies in Matunga for vettalai pakku (pan supari). 
Navratri 'golu' display at 
Dr. Jayashree Rajagopalan's house
When we visited other houses to see their 'golu' displays, the lady of the house would ask us to sing a song for Devi before giving us prasad. My sister, a good Carnatic singer, would use every opportunity to show her skill, while I was more interested in the packets of prasad. 
My sister and I
(she is wearing blue, I am in red)
I would open the prasad eagerly as soon as we got home. Usually it would contain various types of chundal (boiled chickpeas and pulses of various types, sauteed and garnished in many ways). 

We would prefer to go visiting people on Tuesdays and Fridays, when the prasad would be sweet! Kozhakattai, shira, neiappam, these were all wonderful delights to look forward to.

Today at eighty years, I find that while my hearing, sense of smell and sight have deteriorated, my sense of taste has only become sharper! When I was working I never had any time to do anything; but retirement has given me all the time in the world. I intend to do full justice to it, and to my taste buds!
One of the many delights of Navratri: White chana chundal, with red chilli, mustard, curry leaves and fresh grated coconut
Kozhakattai, with jaggery and coconut stuffing
These days, apart from the prasad, I also enjoy the various gifts that I get during Navratri when I visit friends and family. I now have at least a dozen coconuts to last me for a whole month! And innumerable blouse-pieces to match all sorts of sarees. Here is a photo of all the things I got this season: steel dabbas of various sizes, plates, bowls, shopping bags, handbags, and sarees. 
Now do you see why I love this festival? 
Article by Janaki Krishnan; Photos by Deepa Krishnan; Inputs/edits by Aishwarya Pramod