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Sunday, November 29, 2015

the cream roll

14 May 2014 

the daughter has her vacations going on. she ails from the typical teenage

ailment - boredom. there is only one wail i hear all the time... i am bored!1

today she was in a slightly compliant mood when i returned home after a particularly hard day. i was served a steaming cup of kaapi, along with 2 slices of warm toast, the toast generoulsy slathered with mixed fruit jam. i felt blessed.

within minutes she came squealing excitedly..".see what ajja got for us today... this is fr you."
i took the box she proffered.. "Cream Roll" it read.

my eyes lit up. but the cynic in me took over... oh! this one can't be a patch on the kharadwadi cream roll.

my mom and dad rose up in defense... "just bite into it"

Naah, i said..i have been disappointed too often

the Milansar bakery of Kharadwadi pimpri near Pune
the cream roll ....................

a ribbon of fine phylo pastry... twirled into a conical roll. you could see and run your fingers along the firm braids .

the cream roll - as long as my palm. a plump one. as plump as a raddish.

the cream roll... filled generously with sweetened thick cream,

the top of the cream roll would be dotted with a fruit jam.

i would polish off the the jam first. then delicately poke my tongue inside it and suck out a blob of the sweet cream filling.

a bite into the roll.. ... it would crumble slightly.

the crunch would alert the kittens in the house and they gladly polish off the bits on the floor. my grandmother would yell out a warning - 'red ants in your bed tonight'

food memories....... pune memories... happy memories.

most of my vacations during the school years were spent with my maternal grandmother, my maternal aunt and my cousins in pune.

My cousin brothers were nearly 15 yrs older to me. and I was pampered to the hilt.  At my aunt's place I could do everything my father forbade me from doing.  I could wake up when I wanted to, I could go to a library... browse.  I could pick books of my choice,  I could watch as much TV as I wanted, play as long as I wanted to , I  could wear a pony tail .  Everything that I wasn't allowed at home, I did at my aunt's place.

Each evening my aunt and me , we went to the fish market outside their colony, to buy fish for their household, or fish for the cats. at any time there would be atleast 3 cats in her home.

Three buildings away from the fisher monger's stall, was the Milansaar bakery, the wooden counter with glass panes were like any other bakery... laden with toast, nankhatai, khari biscuit, cakes and the 'eggy' tasting pastries frosted in a garish pink or a yellow.  They would invariably sport  a flower in a cream garnish.  I particularly liked the pastries with fluorescent pink icing  adorned with  a bright yellow flower and   neon green leaves.  I could visualise  my father's horrified and disapproving expression as I bit in to the pastry. 

The Milansar bakery of Kharadwadi, Pimpri, boasted of a delicacy - the cream roll. I had never seen this before.   The bakery would have a huge thaal of cream rolls piled up in a pyramid. On most evenings we would return home with a pack of cream rolls.

"Amma....bite into it... it's good",  I heard my daughter goad me .

In that 15 second walk from the kitchen to my room.... I had time- travelled 3 decades.

I gingerly took a bite of the roll. yeah, . it was flaky. I tried to lick off the cream from the top of the roll. i could not... after all, diet ka zamana hai. NO, not me, ... the cream roll was a slim one. seemed as if the cream had probably been injected into it with the thinnest syringe possible!!

The twirls were in place but they looked as if the roll had tucks at regular intervals.

Ummmm, I really must stop complaining, stop give the bakery its due, it was a fair replication of the Milansar bakery cream roll.

i am one happy soul !

Diwali ..aai

 23 October 2014 

It is Diwali.... the morning of Naraka Chaturdashi, and I make another futile attempt to wake up the children for the Abhyanga snan . I give up .

I help myself to a coffee and the Diwali 'faraal' and cannot but think of the excitement of the Diwali of my childhood.

Most Diwali vacations were spent at my aunt's place in Pune and some with my parents at our home.
Home was Goregaon. A three storeyed building. A one room kitchen self contained unit. Eight such units per floor and a common balcony running outside.

The neighbours were addressed as Kaaki, Maami, Manjuchya aai, and my mum - Ashu chi aaai. And there was this family, the Dalvi family. We were more than just neighbours. I addressed Mrs Dalvi as Aaai. Aai was not just an epithet I used for her.. she was my aai in every sense of the word. She was my aai, and my mum - my amma.

Diwali, meant running up to aai's house each evening to see what faraal she had rustled up in the afternoon while I was away at school. Aai usually prepared the bhajnichi chakli, chiwda karanji and besanache laadoo.

She belonged to the CKP community... the Chandraseniya Kayashtha Prabhu community. Amongst them, the karanji was called the Kanola...... कानोला . It used to be my favourite sweet. And why not..... a well puffed up karanji, flaky, filled with the goodness of khava, charoli, bedaane, coconut and sugar... Ummmm !!!

"आई मला करंजी दे " , i would ask . Her husband, whom i called Kaka, would tell aai, "आहो, आशु ला कानोला द्या " and to me he would say, "करंजी नव्हे, कानोला म्हण ". I would diligently repeat after him...." आई कानोला दे ना "

Kaka would be waiting for this moment. He would immediately wet my ear lobes with water and say , " हा घे , कान ओला " and would laugh a hearty laugh.

Aai's Chaklis were another story. She prepared the bhajani chya chaklya. Her chaklis were huge with many spirals running across each. but her chakils though full of flavour , would never crisp up.
She would stare down at me unamused as i uncoiled the chakli into a horizontal., and proceed to cut them into finger long bits . I would dip one end in her cup of tea and then suck from the other end screaming excitedly... "आई चकली मस्त आहे… हा बघ माझा straw "

a धपाटा would land squarely and promptly on my back -"गधडे, नीट खा ती चकली ", she would say.


diwali and the killa

29th November 2015

The Russian book exhibitions held in Bombay in the 70's, had found a patron in my father. He used to buy me a lot of books from such exhibitions and I still have most of them stashed away safely.

Two of these were my favourites then. One was 'Masha's awful pillow' ...the other - 'When Daddy was a little boy'

The two books struck a chord definitely.. Why else do I think of Masha as I punch my pillow into a comfortable, each night? I loved Masha for the way her name rhymed with mine !

‘When Daddy was a little boy ‘.. this book is a compilation of childhood anecdotes recounted by a father - the author , to his young daughter, when she is ill.

And now here I am, beginning most of my posts with a ‘When I was a little girl ‘

.This post too is of a time when I was a little girl.

Most of my vacations, summer or Diwali, were spent at my maternal aunt's place in Pune. My maternal grandmother lived with her, so it was my 'aazol' in the true sense of the word.

As soon as the term exam timetables were announced each year, I would scribble a note on a postcard, addressed to my cousin in Pune. It would be a heartfelt plea to arrive on the last day of my exam and whisk me away to his home in Pimpri. He is a good 13 yrs my senior

He never disappointed me. When I would arrive home after the last exam, I would find him waiting for me . The next day, we would leave for Pune.

Pune was aaazaadi... freedom from the discipline at home, a break from the routine of writing 2 pages of copy writing a day, learning the tables ...
I had a lot of friends in Pune.. the children in the neighborhood and their cousins who were visiting. We always had a good time, climbing up trees, playing outdoors, or watching movies at the Open air theatre in the colony..

My aunt was a working woman and they stayed in company quarters, which was a row of houses. Each house had a ota (a slightly raised platform) outside the house, Then the drawing room, a bedroom, a kitchen , and an aangan at the back.

A few days before Diwali, alongside other festival preparations, the maharastrian neighbours used to construct a killa ouside their house. Killa is a fort.

In a corner of the 'ota' outside the house, we kids would pile up some red mud from the garden. We would mix it with water,, make a slush, add some more soil and then pile it in a small heap against the a pyramidical structure. When it held shape, we would fashion out the ramparts,fortifications,caves and steps to resemble a killa .. It would be a very rough and a basic replica.

We would then plant some mustard seeds on the fort and water it daily... careful that our mud fort wouldn’t 'run'. Once sprouted, these resembled forests which surrounded the killa.

In the 70’s, a toothpaste company (Binaca I think) would include a plastic model of an animal in the carton and each time we opened a new toothpaste, we would be curious to know what was inside. Most kids would have a small collection at home and these would adorn our killa.

Some friends would have little human figures too. These would be our Mavlas what if they sometimes sported military fatigues. :-)  The most impressive looking figurine would be our Shivaji and he was placed on a throne fashioned out for him at the top of the killa . The animals and the mavlas would occupy the caves and strategic locations respectively, on our fort.

Each evening after returning home from work, my aunt and other mothers would appreciate our work, then drag us to the backyard and scrub us clean. We could hear each other’s squeals across the walls that separated each aangan.

Growing up, behaving age appropriate.. took away some of the fun. My last long stay at Pune was in 1985 after my 12th std exams.

Much much later, years after marriage , with young kids in tow, I found myself in Pune once again.,, a couple of days before Diwali. I insisted on being taken to the market at Lakshmi road which I used to frequent with my aunt.

It was there that I saw the killa again. Small ones and elaborate ones... made out of plaster of paris,
I bought one, a small one, in colour, with steps leading to a throne at the top. The Buruj at the sides were highlighted in gold paint. A little ahead I saw a vendor selling clay models of mavalas, Jijabai , Shivaji and animals like the tiger and the elephant.

Shivaji and a few Mavlas accompanied me home.

That Diwali, along with my clay lamps I placed the killa on a ‘paat’ ouside my door. It evinced much curiosity and interest amongst my neighbours, kids and adults alike . I took great pride in educating them about this practice in some parts of Maharashtra, where they built models of forts in honour of Shivaji and his valour.

A couple of years ago, 2008 to be precise, we happened to be in Kashid during Diwali. On our way to Murud Janjira, we came across several homes which had a hand crafted killa standing proud, alongside the elaborate rangolis.

With child like glee I stopped the car outside each house, wanting to see what details they had incorporated.   :-)

This year, once again, I happened to be in Pune in October. A killa and a small figurine of Shivaji was duly purchased. It was early in the festive season and the mavlas were yet to make their appearance on the stalls.

It made me happy.. bringing to life some long forgotten happy memories, recreating them... making them tangible.. in bits

Ko Jagarati

 27th October 2015


I was in the second or third standard then.. about 7 or 8 years in age.

Mum and her friends were talking excitedly about Kojagiri.

I asked aai, my neighbour... कोजागीरी म्हणजे काय?

"Kojagiri is Kojagiri Pournima " she told me... "a full moon in the sky. रात्री आपण मसाल्याच गोड दुध करायच , चंद्राला दाखवून नंतर प्यायच आणि काही गोड खायचं "

my father was a disciplinarian. bed time was at 10 pm. yet , that day, he gave in to my entreaties when i told him I wanted to celebrate kojagiri with aai

my mother insisted i take my own glass of milk. she warmed some, sweetened it with sugar and flavoured it with elaichi. my mother also gave me a small paper bag of Parrys pineapple sweets to take over to aai's

AAi;s door was never latched..not even at night. Her's was a family of 4 sons and a daughter. the oldest son , a good 20 yrs older to me. as was common in those days , the older boys of the house would roll out a mattress outside their door and sleep in the common balcony.

I pushed open her door. It was their dinner time . With her sari hitched up at the waist.. aai was rolling out the चपात्या,

they were surprised to see me there at that hour. काय ग ? aai asked

i held up my glass of milk and the Pack of Parrys and said... "हे बघ… मी गोड दूध आणलय. चल पट्कन …चन्द्र आहे बघ आकाशात "

there was a burst of my innocence.

aai came out of the kitchen, took my glass of milk and led me into the balcony outside. she stood facing the moon.. held out the glass outside the balcony for a while. she then placed the glass in my hand and asked me to take a sip. "आणखी गोड झाल आहे आता बघ" , she said.

i took a sip...offered one to her..she held me close as i finished my glass. and yes ..we all ate the Parrys chocolate too

this is my first kojagiri memory

marriage brought me to a housing society which was cosmopolitan and with a very active Maharashtrian group .. the ladies celebrated haldi kunkoo during sankranta, chaitra gowri and navaratri.. and then there was kojagiri

we were a group of about 15 . the senior members would decide upon a menu and we would all pick an item each - to cook and bring to the get together on the terrace.

the husbands and kids would be fed and we would be off - the ladies night out.

ours was a motley crowd...a punjabi, a sindhi... a tamilian.. the konkani me, and then the others who were maharashtrians.

one of the ladies would have volunteered to make the keshari doodh. good natured ribbing would ensue...दूध आटवले आहेस न… भरपूर काजू बदाम घातले आहेस न… केशर वेलची ?

the lid of that utensil would be removed and instead a finely crocheted piece would be laid across , to keep away any dust and to let the शीतल चंद्र किरण to penetrate

all of us belonged to different age groups... there were 4 kaakus ... aged between 60 to 70. then there were some in their early 50's and then about 4 or 5 of us ....then in our thirties.

we had a lot of fun... the kakus would enthusiastically lead us into dancing the jhimma fugdi, kombda, pinga... some of them would sing the typical festive songs...and then any other song which had any scope for dance.

those were happy times indeed.

and then misfortune struck. one of the kakus passed away. a friend closer in age to me was widowed.. another kaku was widowed.

some friends and then us too, moved residence.

we would meet,,, yes,, we would... but unfortunately at more funerals... of our friends or their spouses.

we... i ,,was loathe to even reminisce of those happy times

and so the years passed by

today morning as i logged into FB.. i saw a post by Loksatta.. the marathi newspaper.. about kojagiri - the moonlight..stars, maybe a stated.

i continued with the chores of the day. till once again , while i was FB crawling, i saw several posts about the flavoured sweetened milk

on an impulse i asked the spouse to buy some extra milk and the keshari doodh masala

my mum offered to boil the milk. she was surprised to see the pack of masala doodh., "It came free with the milk" said the spouse. the gullible mother believed it........

out of the blue the better half suggested.. :why dont u go to our old society and celebrate kojagiri with them like before

"everything's changed" I said,

i found myself chatting with a frined.. me ranting mostly, and there was a suggestion .. a word of advice - "think... what is that u want to do"

i took it most literally and immediatley dialled my friends...KO jAGARATI ... Doodh aahe ka jasticha i asked each of call was unexpected....

it was late too... 10.30 pm . i was bubbling with excitement..but i was skeptical. would they co-operate? at such shirt notice?... but i succeeded... the enthusiasm was contagious probably..
i rustlled up a huge pot of the milk... surprised the parivar with a glass each.. 'thermossed' the rest.. and off i went to my old place of residence. armed with some snacks and a chataai
my friends - a kaku now 82 yrs of age,, and others were all busy at their homes or each others. peeling and powdering cardamom.. grinding the kaju badaam....

the milk .. a little from each home was collected, flavoured and garnished.

we huddled together in the stilt. there was glow on all our faces... of happiness and of the hurried activity.

like they say "jahan chaar yaar mil jaaye..." was the same with us. we were 8 of us.. double the joy.

we left the milk soak in the moon beam while we spoke of the happy moments.

i even regaled them with the incident of my mom and the Free Masala milk powder,
"hmmm फुकटच्या केशरी दुधाची चव मस्तच आहे " commented one of my friends cheekily and we laughed heartily

it is a hectic life for everybody,,, the boredom of routine, setbacks sometimes, defeats too... but then there are also the little joys... happy moments.

sometimes we just want to pick those joyful ones... आनंदाचे क्षण वेचणे ... and make a big deal of them...make a big noise about them..and bask in the happiness
tonight was one such time...only laughter resounded

bhala mori rama,,, bhala tori rama.

17th October 2015

Bhai bhai... bhala mori rama,,, bhala tori rama...

Happened to hear this song just a couple of weeks ago... and i seem to have taken a liking to it, much to the distress of my family members. At random moments i find myself singing aloud .. or playing it on the computer... BHAI BHAI...BHAI BHAI !

then today as i heard it being played at the garba in the building, i looked up the internet and came upon this video..a Christmas party in progress and a number of school kids dancing to Bhai Bhai !

The gay abandon with which the school kids are dancing and prancing to this number... brought a smile, These were not the super kids performing practiced mind boggling dance steps on one of the dance competitions on TV. these were real kids,,, matching steps to the beat of the dance.

Their moves were not synchronized with each other,,, fr that matter the right leg and left leg had no co-ordination...and yet they danced... in the spirit of the song. hands and legs flaying in the air.. flashing smiles of joy.

what was heartening was that the girls participated in equal measure too, little girls and slightly older ones in their pink uniforms. uninhibitedly at that.

a gentleman in a gray T and his family are seen watching this performance. and after a while he is pulled in to the circle.. aao aap bhi naacho, seems to be the invitation

he joins the merry gang. he appears slightly stiff ... wanting to get into the spirit yet holding first he is seen clapping to the rhythm (काय, आरती ला उभी आहेस का…a friend had admonished me once ) . and then moving his hands.. a wee little shuffle of the shoulders AND THEN he opens his hands WIDE... almost accepting of the people around him,,, enveloping them.. we see him loosening up.. his legs move in rhythm and soon he is DANCING. being led by the kids initially, he then comes up with steps of his own, enjoying himself to the hilt. he seems to be a good dancer,, smile emoticon
and now i am envying him.

inhibtions.... sometimes they restrict us .

born with 2 left feet, i wish i had learnt to unwind so... give into the moment...Dance.. like there is no tomorrow !

Ganpati Bappa Moryaa

14th September 2015

Ganpati Bappa arrives on the 17th of September this year. Five days from today.

There is a flurry of activity at my house. Lists are being drawn, stuff is being ordered and collected. Soon our bags will be packed and we will leave for Udupi .

Udupi is our hometown. It is here that we all congregate each year - immediate family and the extended family, and welcome Ganpati Bappa. For a day.

My first Ganesh Chaturthi experience as Mrs K was quite something. It was all about rituals and more rituals. It was one solemn affair, in stark contrast with the vibrant Ganpati festival of my childhood

During the childhood days, for me, the Ganapati festival meant 7 days of fun.

Home was a self contained 2 room apartment with a common balcony running outside 8 homes. There were no safety doors. Most people left their doors ajar the whole day and we kids were constantly traipsing in and out of our neighbour's homes. Those were happy times when neighbours were as close, or sometimes even more so than family.

One such Maharashtrian family on our floor, the Dalvis , had very nearly adopted me for their own. Mrs Dalvi who was much much older to my amma. I called her Aai, just like her 6 children did. Mr Dalvi was Kaka.

Aai and Kaka would bring home the Ganesha idol each year. "Aamcha 7 divsacha ganpati" they would proudly declare.

The preparations would begin nearly a month in advance. The house would be painted - "white wash" , aai would say. They were pretty unorthrodox in their choice of paints as compared to my father and I loved the various hues of pink and blue colours that would adorn their walls.

A few days ahead of the festival, Aai would prepare chiwda and churmyache laadu to be served to the guests who would visit them. Her sons would make the thermocol ‘Makhar’ at home. Sheets of white thermocol, colourful crepe paper and kite paper would be bought. Their friends chipped in too - drawing the designs on the thermocol sheets and carving them out. Gum paste – ‘dinka’ - would be concocted at home, using wheat flour.

Me and my friends, would hover around to collect the bits of thermocol, which we would then rub together so that the little bits, light in weight, would fly all over the place. At such times when we would be an absolute nuisance, we would be rewarded with a thwack on our backs or with the choicest of 'Shabdavrishti" from aai - . “रांडीचे .चालती हो ”. No one took offence at being reprimanded so. Not even the parents. At every other time except times like these when she was highly flustered and exasperated, she showered me with a lot of love. She was the one I called out to from the window if my mother as much as threatened to raise her hand. “ Aaaaaiiiii…….आम्मा मारते” I would yell out and Aai would drop whatever she was doing and come to my aid. She would take my mother to task - “तुम्ही आई आहात की सावत्र ? “ :-)
The idol at Aai’s place would be brought home the night before Ganesh Chaturthi and it would be covered with a veil till the next morning when it was time for the "pratishthapana pooja". In the evening she would send me home with a message for my mum … " तुझ्या आम्माला सांग पाट आणि scarf द्यायला. गणपती आणायला जायचे आहे. ". She upheld the unspoken rule of the chawl sanskruti (culture) – आमचं ते आमचं , जे तुमचं ते ही आमचं !

My paisley print Kashmiri silk scarf and dad’s paat remained with the Dalvis for one week every year , for each of the 12 years that we were neighbours .

It was nonstop masti for the next 7 days. Lunch was always with Aai. Each evening I would present myself at her place... wearing a nice dress, my hair neatly combed. I was entrusted with a responsibility… that of handing out prasaad to the guests who visited them for Ganesh darshan. “मोठ्यांना पेढा , छोट्यांना फुटाणा”, was the standard instruction. The फुटाणा was a peanut or a bit of cashew which was enveloped with a very generous coat of candied sugar. Only one phutana per child
The highlight of the festival however was the evening arti. On some evenings it would be the extended family who would assemble together. On some evenings, the children’s friends. Another time it would be all of them together. Kaka would wave a silver lamp in a circular motion, offering the arti to Bappa, while the congregation sang artis set to the beats of a dhol, cymbals and rhythmic clapping. Everybody’s favourite arti was the “ येई ओ विठ्ठले माझे माउली ये” When they came to the second line of this arti - निढळा वरती कर, they would stretch the र as long as they could hold their breath. A la Anup Jalota.

The verse would repeat two or three times during that arti and they would sing “ nidhala varati kara…aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.
As soon as one group would fall out of breath, the others would carry it forward, ..........aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa……much to the amusement of all and the displeasure of Kaka.

Fun times they sure were.

The festivities would culminate on the evening of the 7th day as Ganpati bid us farewell. Aai would place a spoon full of dahi sakhar on Ganpati’s outstretched palm …the one which had held a modak for the past 7 days.

Kaka would then lift the idol along with the ‘paat’ and step out of the house. He would then turn around and along with the idol , would face his home. He repeated this thrice..thus ensuring that Bappa would not forget the directions to this home the following year.

Aai’s eyes would moisten as she chanted – Ganpati Bappa Morya, Pudhcya varshi lavkar yaa !

We moved out of that neighbourhood in 1980.

Aaai passed away in the September of 1986. September 26th.

Junoon... Utkarsh Mazumdar, Bhangwadi theatre

15th June 2015


 Who hasn't been exposed to music.. and how many have remained immune to it Different genres for different people. Different genres for one person. Different genres for different moods

Abhanga, bhajan, gazal, sufiana, choir, regional sugam sangeet , bhav geet and film music, natya sangeet and the ,bollywood gaana bajaana.. the angrezi gaana with their own subsets ! one is spoilt for choice.

Abhanga and bhajans have often soothed my frazzled nerves while re instilling faith in a divine, the marathi bhav geet with songs for every mood, the gazals while coping with a broken heart, the bollywood music - frothy serenades and the soul ful ones... all have been a part of me and most of us.

Over the past few days i have been reading of a marathi sangeet natak being revived. - Katyar kaalzat ghusli. Was also reading about a Gujarati play - maaro piyu gayo rangoon (this one is also being performed in Hindi)

I for one have a very small attention span. Music playing in the background while i go about my chores is what suits me. The melody attracts me first and then the words And yet, a strain, or some words will shake me and I respond to it by either slipping into nostalgia, a bit of a sadness or happiness.

I cannot sit through long recitals especially the classical kinds. i can appreciate the talent but i do not enjoy it much.

I had seen a play called Stories in a song. The play had about 6 or 7 small "natukle" as they would probably call it in marathi. plays within the play.. each, an independent story but linked together because each had music as a and a music lover. so there was a kajri, a lavni, a soothing sufi, hindustani , a nautanki and many more. Stories in a Song had soulful singing, trained voices, sincere voices. Plus the duration of each song was perfectly measured out and spaced out. it appealed to me who is not a trained listener.. I loved it. i saw the play twice.

Piya Behroopiya was another play i saw which had live musicians and singing. I don't know if it classifies as a musical.. but music and song were attractive elements in the play.
and i thought once again about the appeal of music. how do they think of presenting a play as a musical? writing a regular screenplay of words/ dialogs is by itself challenging enough.. and then a musical?

how do they select and create the format... the songs, the kind of music... folk or classical , semi classical or light. how do they arrive at that right winning combination which satisfies their creativity and also appeals to the audience?

Just then i chanced upon this event - Matwala Zhumta Sangeet Natak ! An event organised by Junoon Theatre which aims at bringing the arts and the people, closer. The event was a lecture by veteran Gujarati Theatre artiste Utkarsh Mazumdar. Passionate about Musical Theatre, he was to talk about the role of music in theatre. Why has musical theatre captivated audiences through the ages? Are there different styles of performance in this genre? How do they affect the story being told... thus tracing the journey of Gujarati musical theatre from the older Bhangwadi style to more modern expressions. Insights into musical theatre and performances through an actor's eyes.

It was a rainy evening today and probably deterred a few, yet there we were, around 15 of us at the Bhau Daji Laad Museum at Byculla.

Utkarsh Masumdar, the veteran, welcomed the audience with a melodious "Natak Jova Aavo" rendition. Bhangwadi singing he said was more of a folk art. these were not songs composed for theatre. They were however incorporated in Gujarati theatre, much like the Bhavai.
The black and white era of Doordarshan with its single and then 2 channel transmission has done people of my generation a whole lot of good, it exposed us to regional flavours- music dance, cinema, theatre, folk theatre...

Bhavai... I remembered it from the DD days. "Taa Thaiyya Thaiyyaa Thaiyyyaaa Thaa"... the Tootari / trumpet letting out those hoarse hoots.. the Rangla and the rangli. I dont remembter the Rangli much but i distinctly remember the artist who played Rangla. Even today as he appears as 'Natukaka' in the serial 'Taarak Mehta ka oolta chashma' My mind immediately connects him with Rangla. Ghanshyam Nayak is his name.

We were treated to an audio visual of the Bhavai for a couple of minutes. Infact the whole lecture was interspersed with such snippets and live rendition and performances by Utkarsh Majzumdar. He even moved amongst the audience, involving some in a dance step too . At his age he is blessed with a voice which is melodious and also khankhaneet when reqd. He is of nimble feet, breaking into a garba or a small shuffle at times.

Bhavai , he said, originated in the 14th century , with 360 veshas of which 300 are now lost. here is a Wiki link on Bhavai

the first gujarati play was staged in the oct of 1853 by one Mr Dalal. The name of the play - Rustom Sohrab. the performance also included a farce - Dhanji Gharak.

Utkarsh Mazumdar spoke about the Bhangwadi theatre which existed near Kalbadevi. Most plays of those times were musicals he said. Song dance and action were integral components of theatre and these were also defined by Bharatamuni he said. theatre thus was a complete entertainment for society in those times.

Gujarati and Marathi theatre both had the sangeet nataks, The Marathi Natya Sangeet leaned more towards classical singing, where the singer would stand steady in one place, sing and emote. The gujarati musical was about the singers singing , emoting and using the entire stage while performing the song.

A musical would have about 20 to 30 songs. The singing was accompanied by live music with musicians seated in a pit in front of the stage. The members of the audience had their favourite performers and songs. Several encores would be demanded. Every "once More" would be honoured and most plays would end only in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes the actual song performed on stage would have 3 or 4 verses and during an encore other verses of the same song would be rendered. those were times when there were no reproductions by way of cassettes or cd's. the encores would sometimes be for memorizing lyrics.

those were the days when 'Gaanewaalis' were also a repository of music. however only the moneyed few could indulge . to cater to the likes, demands and tastes of these patrons, these gaanewaalis with their musical troupe were regulars at the Sangeet Natak . With their requests for encores, they would note down the lyrics and notations and perform it for their patrons.
The 'Once More' requests from the audience were often accompanied by a token of appreciation. Money. No ! Notes were not offered or showered,. Little velvet pouches which held a silver coin or more would be hurled at the favorite artiste in appreciation of his talent. And to avoid injury to the artiste because of these 'missiles', a fine gauze curtain would separate the stage and the audience when the songs were performed. the curtain did not hinder visibility but it did protect the artistes.
The commencement of a theatrical performance at auditoriums today is by ringing a bell. Pahili Ghanta, Dusri Ghanta, teeri ghanta are terms I hear even today. In those days they used to blast Gunpowder, he said.

Most actors would have an extension to their name prompted by the popularity of the character they enacted on stage. Those were times when women did not perform on stage. The male actors donned the female garb and enacted the woma's role. If Marathi Sangeet Nataks boasted of a Bal Gandharva, Gujarati theatre had JaiShankar Sundari. He had acted in a gujarati play Saubhagya Sundari an adaptation of the Shakespear's Othello, He was Sundari in the play, impersonating the character of Desdemona. That was it. Jaishankar Bhojak was rechristened Jaishankar Sundari.
Coming back to the production....the sets required for the play would be painted in detail on curtains specially imprted form Germany. These could create a 3D effect enhancing the performance. The curtains were moved in place according to the scenes being enacted.

Theatre influenced films and Raja Harishchandra became the first movie. ( This movie was scripted by a Gujarati, he said with pride. ) Not just themes, the Songs from the Musicals were included in movies too. Who hasn't heard of 'Mohe panaghat pe nandlal " from Moghul e azam? That song first appeared in the Gujarati play Veer Chhatrasal , depicting the life of the hero from Madhya Pradesh. As such, the play had songs in Hindi. This song, "Mohe Panghat pe" was included in Moghul e azam without credit to the Gujarati poet who composed it -- Shri Raghunath Brahmbhatt fondly known as ‘Rasakavi’ in Gujarati literature A legal battle ensued and K Asif had to acknowledge and apologise.
Mazumdar also spoke about Melodrama... exaggeration in movements, acting, and rendering of dialogues. this was mainly to cater to teh viewers in the last rows. . the loud exagerated acting and the dialogues delivered in booming voices when microphones were not around, would aid him in savoring the play from his disadvantageous location in the theatre.

Bhangwadi theatre was popular for as realistic presentation as possible. During a Ramayana performance, the earth would open up and 'take' Sita... this set would be well equipped with trapdoors he said. 'Gaadi, Ghoda would be brought on stage too"

Unfortunately we as a socitey have no respect for history , he continued. Where once upon a time stood Bhangwadi theatre, today there are no traces of its glory, except for a cutpiece centre which shares the name - Bhangwadi Cutpiece centre. The heartbroken artiste did not fail to highlight his dismayy in a play entitled Master Phoolmani, "To buy or not to buy" was a catchline !
The songs in a Musical served the purpose of carrying a play forward and could not be tampered with or removed .

It was interesting to hear of popular gujarati artists - manoj Joshi and Dilip Joshi who made their debut on stage with Tak dhina din, a gujarati play adapted from a well known marathi play "Tour Tour" , They themselves were college students then. Mazumdar regaled the audience with incidents of how they deal with situations when the artiste doesnt show up . Tense yet hilarious moments
he shared another incident when he was reprimanded for his appearance in a McDonald's commercial by a Gujarati gentleman. "how can you eat chicken". Mazumdar put the gentle,an in place by asking him how many gujarati plays of his had he seen. None, it turned out to be. "how can theatre survive without patrons? how can we survive without patrons?" were Mazumdar's counter questions to the gentleman.

Mazumdar thanked his wife for being a great support. She along with their daughter wre part of the audience. He wished there was a more keen and enthusiastic audience for theatre.
the evening was a learning experience... of the evolution of gujarati theatre and its development. the journey of Sangeet natak with live singing on stage to the lip syncing to recorded songs today. Yess... he demonstrated that too.

Mumbai Local of Junoon theatre aims to bring the arts closer to the audience. it sure succeeded in bringing out the person from inside the personality that is Utkarsh Mazumdar.
for me it was reiterating to myself - i love stories !
"once upon a time !" - these words continue to enthrall me. !

Friday, August 7, 2015

So it's been two years of study... a Post Graduate Diploma in Comparative Mythology and then an Advanced Post Grad Diploma in Comparative Mythology.

I remember the first year when friends and family got to know about the course I was studying.  The comments that followed ranged from a Wow... to Arrey waah... aata tu kirtankaar honaar?, amusement, some respect, solidarity... and then a challenge.. bataa kya padha course mein.

Age, some maturity and the study of this course had wisened me.... i learnt to answer the curious to the best of my ability, ignore the ignorants and mainly.. to choose my battles.

I was just going through my books and glancing through the notes i had made.  some points highlighted in red.  These were interesting bits of knowledge gathered in class and they were highlighted so that i would remember to recount them to my friends and mainly to Rao kaku... my 80 yrs plus friend whi waited for my call each saturday.  Mee khurchi gheoonach basle aahe.. tukha phone yeilach.

as i flipped through the notes i had a thought. I rather put these little stories, facts, in a blog form.. for easy access later. and i could also forward these to a few friends who shared a similar enthusiasm.

The next xoupls of entries will be mytho

Friday, February 13, 2015


"How can you be friends with him ?   What has he to offer you... nothing !! ", said the friend.

He has.  He gives me his time.  His undivided attention.  When I want it.  Whenever I want it .  He doesn't promise to make my problems disappear.  I don't want him to either. My battles, my wars, are mine alone.  But sometimes,  I need a partner on my bench.   That is all I want from him.  That is all I seek from him.  And that is what I get from him.
Books !!

I love them.

I love holding a new book in my hand.

Eager to turn the pages.
Eager to be a part of the story.

I love the fragrance of the 'newness' of the book.

I love the audible 'crispness' of the pages.

Books !!

I love them.

I love that pirated copy, when budget restrains me.
I love that second hand copy too....

there is a fragrance to that aged copy too.

The occasional musty page,
the randomly marked lines... so important to the one who once held the book in his hands..long before me.

And most of all,

I love the little hand written inscription,
from the generous giver
to his loved one...
Keen, that the recipient
experience similar emotions,
Partake of similar joys..
I love being party to this intimate little conversation..

And they are strangers no more....
The warmth enveloping me too.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Everytime I go to the high mountains, I discover something new not about them, but about me.

 (Anatoli Boukreev)
चाळणी म्हणते सुई च्या शेपटीला भोक

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I am tired of playing this game
of waiting and watching
of who will make the first strike

I want to , you know,
but the heart worries.

The mind has already been silenced,
I am not so sure anymore.

I read you right?
or not...

With this deep desire to own the whole of you
I   am scared I might lose the little bit I think I own of you

about me

 Memories are my fondest possessions, reveling in the past , a favorite pastime.

 I have been consciously trying to change this. Sometimes I succeed , mostly I do not.

Penning them as I encounter them,  is proving to be a solution. Writing it down, re-reading it.... a sense of detachment comes over and I am able to sort of exorcise it away.

I do not know if it will work in the long run...I do not know if I want it that way. But at this moment, it suits me well. 

Drew Barrymore's character , in her movie  - Never been kissed - had said, "Someone once told me... that to write well, you have to write what you know."

This is all I understand, and this is all I know......feelings, sentiments emotions... 

 I write,  what I know.

December 28 2014

It is December.  The last month of the year.  Another year has gone by... and it is time to do the 'bahi khaata'

This year was one of incredible sadness.

Growing older, people around -  growing older still.  And then some bidding me  good bye.


No amount of understanding life and the concept of death as an absolute certainty , can prepare you for the moment, when  it strikes closer home and takes away   a loved one.  Here now ...Gone leaves you shaken. 

 I used to think that with age comes wisdom which helps one deal with bereavement.

I forgot that years of association brings in that much more attachment....attachment that is so so difficult to handle when the person is no more.

The memories, the grieving, nothing helps.  The loss simply hurts. 

Sunny Visions

Each New Year's eve, a friend of mine tries to coax me into accompanying her to the Juhu Beach, to watch the last sunset of the year.  I find the thought very very dismal.  akin to pulling down the curtains, signifying an end..

"How about witnessing the first sunrise of the new year," , I asked of her once...

"Chhee.. savere kaun uthega" she retorted, condescendingly.

The thought however made  residence in my mind , in my heart..   But where , in this concrete jungle of Mumbai would I be able to have an early morning date with the rising sun ?  That was the  question !

Sometime in 2013, The Bombay Natural History Society once put up an announcement for a Bird watching meet at the Sewri mudflats to greet  the migratory Flamingos .  I was interested. Could not join that group,  so I spoke to a friend.   He gave me directions to the place as well as a tip, "Flamingos ke saath Sunrise free, if you reach there at the magical hour"

Phir kya !!  there was nothing to stop me.  The husband was easily cajoled and we started out in the wee hours of a  Sunday morning.   Sewree Phatak, Sewree Jetty... it took us a while to find our way there and by the time we reached, the sun had risen in the dark blue sky.

I had dreamt of seeing the first light rays of the day spread across the sky....but beggars couldn't be choosers.  Plus the hundreds of flamingos made the trip worth every second of the sleep we had foregone.

The son, at that time, was a student in Goa.  When he arrived home on a break, we carted him to Sewree.  Once again, on a Sunday morning  And this is what we got...

After these two incidents,  the husband started acting pricey putting  an end to my early morning jaunts to the mudflats.

But he is a sentimental bloke.  This year he succumbed to my entreaties.......   "Sunrise on a New Year's  Day...Please, please.!!"

On the 1st of Jan 2015, the sunrise was scheduled for 7.15 am.  Suited me fine. Could snatch a couple of more seconds in bed.

That morning as we started for Sewree, the sky was already lit .  It was a foggy smoggy daybreak, dull gray skies.  When we reached there, it was high tide.. it meant there would be no flamingoes.   But today it was a date with the Sun, so I wasn't unduly disappointed.

The Sewrie Jetty usually has about 2 or 3 vessels anchored on each side.  The staff doing there chores.  The air smelling  of  oxidising metal  and oil...  not very pleasant.  But a few seconds and everything else phased out.   The high tide , meant a full sea.  Brimming with water... it gently lapped at the concrete edges of the jetty... thap  thap thap... the rhythm was soothing,  calming.  The sky was gray with not even a cloud to add a bit of colour.  The water reflected the same bleakness.

I got out of the car, camera in hand and walked towards the solitary stone bench there.  The husband was directed to a spot, a little away, to park the car.

And in a span of those few seconds. there  rose a ribbon of golden shimmer on the sea.  Dull gold,  which soon went on to don a sparkling shimmery hue.   Yes.. the sun had deigned it convenient to peek from behind  a cloud.  The smog had parted.

The game of peek-a-boo continued... Now I see him , now I don't.

But I was easily pleased.  So what if it was 8.00 am.  So what if the sun was a couple of feet up on the horizon.

It was New Year's Day.  and I had kept my date with the SUN.

I remember the joy....
the pride.
Of being by your side.

I remember the flutter in my heart....
as you walked into the room.

He is mine..
The feeling of ownership was overwhelming

As was the feeling of belonging.

To own belong..

I weave my hand through yours ,
as we walk..

I  intertwine my fingers with yours.
pump them,
wanting to feel the reciprocating warmth of your palms.....

I lean my head on your shoulders...

I hold your face by the chin
and look searchingly  into your  eyes..

Eyes which were always hungry,
for the sight of me

I run my fingers over your lips.

They attempt a hint of a smile.
The attempt as half - hearted as mine.

Oh, the effort !

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Little Drummer Boy !

The daughter came into the room excitedly and latched on to the computer, looking for a song on you tube. She called.out to me., " I found it... I heard a song today. Found it on you tube..Listen to this, ", she said.

and as the song started playing, a smile spread on my face.

the song? The Little Drummer Boy. My girl had discovered this song only now. .

I remember I was in class 2. about 7 years old. The school was to close for Christmas and just before the holidays began, there was a programme in school . Our class was to put up an act. A classmate was to play Joseph and a close friend of mine, Reshma, was to play Mother Mary. She had to cradle baby Jesus in her arms. The song to be enacted... Yess... The little Drummer Boy

The teacher had asked the class, "Does anybody have a doll? Can you bring it on the day of the performance."

An eager me had shot up her arm. "i have one, I will get it." My dear neighbour, Aai, had gifted me one, just a couple of weeks ago. The doll, as all dolls are , was a pretty face, shoulder length brown hair, light blue eyes..and she was made of rubber, yielding a loud squeak when pressed. She wore a bright yellow blouse and a bright pink floor length skirt. She also carried a wicker basket full of flowers in her left hand. I called her Goldilocks..

When I came home and told this to Aaai, she retorted, "बाहुली तुझी ना, मग तू ' मदर मेरी' होणार म्हणून सांग . नाहीतर बाहुली देणार नाही , अस सांगून ये. "

My parents , my father mostly, backed me and he packed the doll in a brown paper sheet for me to take to school.

I handed the doll over to my class teacher.

. That afternoon, as i stood on the stage, behind Mother Mary and Joseph...along with my other classmates. , all a part of a group , singing the Little Drummer Boy, my eyes were transfixed on my dolly , bundled in lace, secure in the arms of my friend. A little bit of sadness, a little bit of happiness .. my feelings then.

Pa rum pa pum pum. Rup a pum pum ..rup a pum pummm... the chorus still rings clear in my ears. but it is only happiness i feel now at the thought of this old old memory.

It was Christmas then, It is Christmas today..... I wish all my friends a Merry Christmas
Stories need to be told....Stories need to be shared... lest they are all forgotten - a lesson i learn in my mythology class. I just needed one more reason to share one more memory,