Unexpected Kathak treat!

It was a usual Saturday. Jo and I had spent the better part of the day debating over where we should got out for our ‘evening walk’. Now don’t let that fool you into thinking that by the end of it we had a solid plan – after all that discussion, the only thing we had agreed on was that we really need to ‘get something to eat’.

After a few errands to that we had to see to, we decided that we are hungry specifically for burgers – you know how it is. I knew of this place called The Tuck Shop and Jo had never been there, so we decided that today was as good a time as to go there. Now came the tricky part. You see, I’d just been there once with a friend and being the geographically challenged person that I am didn’t have any idea how to get there. Not that we let THAT deter us. Armed with the address of the place, we attacked every passerby, requesting them to direct us. One of the directions was that we should pass in front of a Ganapathy Temple and it was while passing in front of it that we witnessed a beautiful Kathak performance. Needless to say, Jo and I were drawn to it, hunger all forgotten. We didn’t even care how out of place we looked, in our ratty jeans and tees!

Before I go on, a word about Kathak. Kathak is the major classical dance form of northern India derived from the dance dramas of ancient India. The word kathak means “to tell a story” and the dance is famous for its graceful pirouettes, expressiveness and striking costumes.

Of the two dancers performing that day, I found the movements and posture of one rather arresting as compared to other. With expressive eyes, subtle smile and high cheekbones, not to mention the incredible grace of movement, she was truly mesmerizing – so much so that we, who thought we’ll “see just one piece and go” stayed for the entire recital! So enthralled were we that we even plucked up the courage to go and let the artist, Ms. Simran, know how much we enjoyed her performance. As always is the case with great artists, she accepted our compliments with a graceful smile and when asked if she had been dancing for long (‘coz, frankly, I thought she was in her early 20s), replied, rather humbly, that she has been “for a while”. Just how humble she was I found out only later in the evening.

Ms. Simran Godwani [Pic Courtesy: Krshala Dance Theatre]
Ms. Simran Godwani [Pic Courtesy: Krshala Dance Theatre]

Ms. Simran Godhwani (aka the graceful dancer) is, her bio tells me, an accomplished Kathak artist as well as Founder & Director of Krshálá – the performing arts school in Koramangala. She was an HR professional for four years in a leading MNC in Bangalore. She is a senior disciple of Guru Murari Sharan Gupta, who is one of the senior disciples of the legendary Kathak maestro Pt. Birju Maharaj & the artistic Director of Samam-Center for Movement. She is a principal dancer at Samam. She learnt the classical dance of Bharatanatyam form for 17 years and Kathak for over 7 years.

No wonder she is as good as she was! You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that it takes immense courage, dedication and hard work to succeed in performing arts and to actually make a career out of it – more so once you’ve known the perks of an MNC life. Especially in dance, which is often considered as nothing more than a frivolous hobby for girls in our society. As always, I am much moved and inspired by people like her who go on to do what THEY want to, oblivious to the society norms.

More power to such passionate trendsetters!

P.S: In case you are curious – Yes, Jo and I did manage to find our way to The Tuck Shop. And it was lovely. Though the food ain’t all that exceptional, the ambiance was worth the entire trip. A decent meal for two can be managed under Rs.500. I’d recommend that you check it out!

My choice for the evening - 'Oh Basanti'. Yeah yeah, I choose food based on their name.
My choice for the evening – ‘Oh Basanti’. Yeah yeah, I choose food based on their name.
The menu card that I kinda loved!
The menu card that I kinda loved!

[Her bio as given at the official site of Krshálá Dance Theatre]


The new-found freedom

It was only the last evening while talking to a friend on phone that it dawned on me that I’ve been away from home for nearly 6 months now. Which, of course, in the larger scheme of things is kinda like a drop of water in the ocean. It’s just that I absolutely loved these last few months. And I find that amusing ‘coz if you were to call me up at this moment and ask me to educe my memories of Bangalore, I’d probably come up with more rotten ones than the other.


On second thought, that shouldn’t surprise me so, should it? En masse, we humans have this tendency to highlight the bad over good, haven’t you felt? Trashy movies, shoddy books, third-rate politics, mediocre celebs, their sub-standard tactics…all this makes us have collective mini-orgasms. The good stuff usually makes us go “Damn, why didn’t I think of that? And now I have to sit through others praising him. And smile while I’m seething with jealousy.”

And so, it is a truth universally acknowledged that bad experiences end up being a damn good story. And yes, I realise it echoes of the first line of ‘Pride and Prejudice’. And that, keeping in with the tradition, I’ve drifted off the topic. Focus, Navmi.

So yeah, Bangalore. I keep saying Bangalore ‘coz even though I’ve been here for just 3 months, life in Gandhinagar had been a breeze compared to that here. There, everything was handed out to us in a platter – all we had to do was to shell out a few bucks to keep ‘em coming. Here, we had to start everything from scratch. You know how you watched Ayesha paint her cute little apartment in ‘Wake up Sid!’ and told yourself “That’s how it is gonna be when I move to a new place”? Well, I really don’t want to rain on your parade, but THAT is utter bullshit. When YOU move to a new place, you’re probably going to end up in a P.G which advertises free wifi, “homely” food, and a bunch of smiling owners only to realise by the end of the month that (a) it takes an hour to load Google, (b) you can only have so much dal in a day (c) you are the little Red Riding Hood and the owners may as well be the big, bad wolves in your Grandma’s clothes. So there.

And then you are going to realise that life is bloody expensive. I’m not talking about the ‘No cash for petrol’ kinda crisis. I’m talking about the one where you realise a packet of Surf Xcel costs as much as a king-sized Diary Milk Silk! And once you realise the number of chips packets you consume in a month, you’ll start wondering how your parents could afford to stay off the streets. Seriously. But hey, jokes apart, there is nothing like being completely in charge of your finances that helps you grow up. A few of us taste the first spurt of this growth in your college days. For a few others like me, it’s a completely new arena. There is nothing as baffling as watching your carefully scripted monthly budget plan falling apart in the first week of the month. From then on, it’s like increasingly depressing cricket match. Theoretically, there is hope till the last over is bowled. And yet, you get a picture of how things are gonna be in those crucial initial overs.

And somewhere between all these, you’ll start getting hounded by a newfound worry that you are not doing enough for your parents – financially or physically, whether they need it or not. There’ll be times when you’ll be astounded by the heights of your selfishness in choosing to put your life, your dreams, your independence above that of theirs. You are gonna fret over those calls that start with “I have this headache for the last few days…” or “Cholesterol level is quite high…” When they call you up to inform you about the demise of an acquaintance or a friend or are uncharacteristically silent on the phone, you are gonna catch yourself wondering “If only I were there, we could have talked about this…” You are gonna brood over that for a while and will, almost certainly, try and shake it off by watching a movie or reading a book. After all, you gotta do what you gotta do.

And in between all these, strangely enough, you’ll relish the life you live. You’ll enjoy that you can go out at 9.30pm to buy a jar of jam. Or that you can go jogging in the morning just because you felt so. Or that you can blow off a good portion of your salary on books and no one is gonna give you THAT look. Some days you’ll go up on the terrace, look at the stars and simply lie there, listening to the distant rumble of traffic, the impatient horns and wonder where everyone is going. You’ll gaze at the apartments nearby and wonder what they are doing. You’ll have the luxury of being at your whims and fancies…

Some days, most days, that’ll be enough.

Live From Bangalore

That tangy smell of coriander being sautéed…I’ve always associated that with the feeling of being at home. For there is little that says “Welcome home” like having your nostrils burned by the smell of spices. So here I am, another day, another place and yet, very much at home. Only this time, it’s my sister pottering around the kitchen, trying to whip up something edible from a mass of greens and pulses. Every time I look at her, I get this kinda maternal vibe…a sense of pride as if she is what she is because I am who I am. Does that make sense?

So here I am. New day, new place. The same old sense of excitement. But this time, there are no nerves. Bangalore seems as much home as Thrissur. Now how is that? I don’t know the language, the people… and considering the fact that I’m one of the most geographically challenged people existing on the face of earth, I’m pretty sure that I wouldn’t know any of the places too. And yet, my mind is at ease. There is something about Bangalore that welcomes you right in. It seems to have a place for you, whoever you are. And somehow, I have this gut feeling that life here isn’t gonna have as many peaks and ditches as life at Gandhinagar. Let’s see…

Meanwhile, I’d appreciate it if those of you who knows Bangalore like the back of your hand or knows someone who knows someone who knows Bangalore like the back of their hand lemme know about what to do at the so-called happening city of India. Good eateries (‘coz after all, food comes first), good music, fun places to hang out (which are, preferably, rather easy on the pocket)…anything and everything about the place. So do drop me a message with suggestions, wokay?

More on life here later. Go…have fun!

Goodbye Gujarat

“Why does one person need so many cloths?? How many t-shirts and salwar could one person wear in a span of 3months?? What in the world was I thinking when I bought all this stuff?? How the hell was I going to get all this stuff across 5 states?!”

These were just a few questions that were going through my mind as I sat in front of a suitcase that was looking increasingly puny in comparison with all the stuff that is supposed to go inside it. So I decided to do what many a genius has done time and again when faced with such daunting tasks. I decided to procrastinate.

See the thing is, I am moving out from Gandhinagar in less than a week. Wow… hurts quite a bit to think about it! In a little over than 3 months, this place has become as much a home as is possible. So many memories…walking down the memory lane, I am jotting down some of the most vivid memories I have of this place.

  1. Wandering through Manek Chowk

Manek Chowk is a street food bazaar which opens at around 10.00pm every night. Known for the mouth-watering variety of food it offers, it is the perfect place to have the BEST dosa you’ve ever had (I’m a South Indian. So when I say The Best, I mean it), lip-smacking pav bhajis, kulfi with raita, faludas, hot jalebis, and reasonably good pani puris among other delicacies. Key in the 1980s Bollywood music streaming in from speakers to experience life in North India at its best.

Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
Street Food at Manek Chowk (Photo Courtesy: http://www.ahmedabadgiftshop.com)
  1. The day of hailstorm

This is truly an unforgettable experience. A few friends and I had set out to visit the Adalaj Stepwell as few kilometers away from Infocity. It was a very hot and cloudy day and we were expecting (or rather hoping) for a strong drizzle at most. Imagine our surprise when the sun who had been playing peek-a-boo barely a second ago, suddenly disappeared and wind strong enough to overturn roadside carts and uproot age-old trees appeared. Initially we waited a while, hoping it would abate as abruptly as it started. And then it started to rain with such ferocity that we wondered if this was a replay of the 2001 earthquake. Somehow we managed to find an autorickshaw. It took us a moment to realise that half the ferocity of the rain was because it wasn’t raindrops that was drenching us – it was sharp, pebble-sized pieces of ice! My first hailstorm! And then, as if it were a Bollywood movie, the rickshaw broke down. How we got back to the hostel with our wits intact still eludes me but once we did, it made a hell of a story!

Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: www.skymetweather.com)
Caught in the hailstorm (Picture Courtesy: http://www.skymetweather.com)
  1. Strolling through Sabarmati Riverfront. At 12.30 am.

Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project is an initiative by the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation to develop the Sabarmati riverfront in the city of Ahmedabad, India. . We reached there at around 12.30 am, only to be sent back as it closes at 11.00pm. Neverthless, the short walks outside the entrance were enticing enough to make me want to come back to this place as and when I can.

Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)
Sabarmati Riverfront at night. (Photo Courtesy: defence.pk)

It was also the place where I got the first glimpse of how dangerous the seemingly safe places of North can be. The fact is, in the Southern parts of India, people rarely venture out after dark, with the exception of metro cities. We don’t have night bazaars or street shopping. However in the other parts of India, night is the time everything comes alive. There is something about seeing multitudes streaming through streets going through their lives that make you put your guard down. It makes your forget all that you’ve read about how unsafe a place it is for girls. Which you should never, EVER forget.

  1. Sunset at Somnath

Somnath is an ancient temple located in the Western coast of Gujarat. We were on a trip to Diu and stopped there and ended up visiting the temple at the best moment possible. The evening aarthi was just starting and the ambiance inside was amazing. But the best part of Somnath was standing on the deck there and watching the sunset across one of the most beautiful expanse of sea I’ve ever seen. Experiencing that sense of peace and tranquillity – very difficult to put into words.

Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
Somnath temple at sunset. (Picure Courtesy: Shobha Kamath)
  1. The day Modi won

How can that day not be memorable? Hearing about Gujarat rejoicing over Modi’s win is one thing – seeing it person, feeling that joy and sense of triumph vibrating through passers by…unforgettable. Needless to say, by the night of 16th May, there was not a single sweet shop not empty and there were policemen stationed every 100 metres. (Erm…I just realised that those two facts have nothing in common!) Brushing aside my personal emotions, it was amazing seeing so much faith in one man’s vision.

Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)
Celebratory ladoos on the streets after Modi won (Photo Courtesy: indianexpress.com)