Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Colonization Through Food

I was wondering, what comes to our mind when we think of dining out. Is it a meal in Mc Donald’s, KFC or Subway or is it paranthas, paneer, daal chawal, rajma, fish curry, etc.? Do we have much option for Indian cuisines in the cities when our streets are crowded with fast food joints? In Hyderabad, Andhra tiffin centres are abundantly visible but to find affordable restaurants to relish on cuisines of other regions of the country requires hunting with a microscope.
A couple of days ago, I was longing for some delicious Shahi Paneer and Paranthas but had to resort to eating a Turkey Sub from Subway. It was not that my appetite switched its mood but I could not find a place to quench my desire in a rate that would not hurt my pocket. A thought popped up, if it is a new kind of colonization.
The trend towards our perception of affordability is also changing. We can easily spend a hundred rupees for a Sub or a Zinger Burger, whether it serves our hunger or not is a different issue, but we hesitate to bear the same expense for a pair of paranthas or a Bengali meal or a Rajasthani thali. The food court of Inorbit Mall, Hyderabad, boasts of Tibetan Restaurants, Western and Mexican Food Joints, but not a single point, where dishes from all over the country is served, can be found. The grocery shops and super markets stock Kellogg’s Cornflakes, muesli, oat meal porridge, mayonnaise, oyster sauce, etc.. The extent of colonial hangover is evident in the Health pages of newspapers and magazines. A glance through these columns reveals consumerist motivations, where every diet suggestion labels desi food habits as unhealthy and junk, triggering the attitude of abandoning Indian recipes. The fact is, our ancestors never faced the problem of obesity as much as the youths today which resulted from the switching of appetite. But anything that has the tag of West rocks, and thus rocks the global market.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Beyond Reality

Oh it’s a line…no, no…it’s jumbled…there’s a hand popping out of it. Than, than. Dhishum, dhishum…the scrambled, twisted line is fighting with the air…
Sigh! My eyes are wide open now, but where’s the fighter, where’s the jungle? I can only see a ray of light from the night lamp. Hmm, it was my dream. Let me sleep again…it’s just 10 past 2 in the night.
Wow! What’s that? Perfume?? No, some fragrance from flowers…but I never smelled such a scent before. It is casting a spell on me. This land is so beautiful! Trees with orange and purple leaves, the foot tapping music, and the rainbow fountain; am I dreaming again? “No”, a faint voice whispered. “It’s real. The world beyond the world you see. It’s your vision. What you experience in your rat-race like life is not the only reality. There is much more to life.” I got up from my bed. Started walking through a road surrounded by orange and red Maple trees. In between, there was peeping out some purple Jacaranda trees. A perfect autumn landscape, just I have always imagined. But the road ends near water fountain. The music is coming out of it. “A musical fountain” I uttered, what else can be in store!” “Walk through”, a whisper again. Walk through the fountain! How am I going to do that? A deep breath, I entered inside the fountain. A cave appeared. Okay, I have to walk inside. I can see the light on the other side of the cave. A green meadow, encircled by flowers and tall trees. I can see blue mountains a little farther. Something is happening to me…I’m suddenly feeling so happy. Everything is seeming like magic. Two white unicorns playing in the forest behind, fairies dancing around me. Angels playing harps. It seems like I am living in a fairytale. I have never been so happy. The landscape is changing it colour, as if it is reaching twilight. Yes, it is. The semi circular Sun is peeping through the blue mountains which appear violet now. I remember this place. I have been here before. This is the place I have created. It’s mine. The painting I used to draw in my school. But, I lost it long time ago. I searched, but failed to trace it. It got lost somewhere in the pile of things. Wait, wait! Everything is disappearing. “No, please. I want to stay here. This gave me the mirth I have ever experienced”.
Sound of horns, uff! The walls of the same old room appeared in front of me. What a night! I smiled. Was it a dream? Or something beyond reality? It was just like a fairytale. “Life is a fairytale. It depends on how you perceive it”. It’s the same whisper. Who? Who’s that? “Just believe. Life is all about how you create it and how you believe in your own creation to make it real. It is magic, you just have to spell it properly”.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Performance in the beats of Nature : Folk Dance by the Santhal Tribe of West Bengal

Santhal  is  one  of  the  most  abundantly  found  tribes  in  India.  A  majority  of  them  inhabit  West  Bengal  and  Jharkhand.  Santhals  are  known  for  their  rich  cultural  lineage  and  immense  solidarity.  They  are  the  worshipper  of  Thakurji,  the  deity  who  according  to  them  is  the  creator  of  the  universe.  The  members  of  Santhal  tribe  celebrate  the  glory  of  nature  and  offer  prayers  to  Thakurji  through  the  beats  of  music  and  a  form  of  dance  called  Santhali  dance.  Dance  and  music  are  integrated  in  their  workaday  life  and  festivals  such  as  Magha  Parva,  Dassai  Parva,  Baha  Parva  and  Karma.  This  dance  is  primarily  performed  during  special  occasions,  especially  during  Spring  Festival.  It  is  a  typical  group  dance  accompanied  by  the  different  kinds  of  drums,  flute  and  jahl  or  kasa  thal  (large  metallic  cymbals).  The  dancers  form  a  circle.  Men  and  women  dance  in  separate  rows  with  interlocked  arms  and  the  performance  involves  many  cluster  formations.  There  are  no  open  movements  of  the  arms  above  the  shoulder  level  and  also  no  dips  of  knees  or  hops.  The  front  torso  is  always  kept  in  a  bent  position.
Santhal  dance  is  considered  one  of  the  best  tribal  folk  dances  which  offers  tremendous  vibrancy  and  cheerfulness.  The  main  attraction  of  the  dance  are  the  colourful  costumes  worn  by  the  performers.  Male  dancers  wear  dhoti  and  turban  of  vibrant  colours  and  decorate  themselves  with  branches  of  tree,  bushes,  flowers  and  leaves.  Women  wear  yellow  saree  with  red  border,  in  a  traditional  fashion  and  adorn  their  hair  and  body  with  leaves  and  flowers.  Ornaments  include  hansuli,  nose  ring,  armlet  and  Dokra  (a  traditional  jewellery  symbolising  craftsmanship).  Themes  of  this  performance  often  cover  issues  of  gender  and  land  rights.  The  themes  also  include  celebration  of  the  existential  and  instinctive  self   with  the  songs  bearing  a  rustic  flavour  with  a  tint  of  eroticism.
The  dance  form  tends  to  neutralise  disparities  among  sexes  and  also  symbolises  unity  among 
people.  Special  instruments  used  for  performing  Santhali  dance  also  has  special  significance.  The  drums  used  in  this  performance  are  known  as  Tamak  or  Tumdah  that  helps  to  gather  attention.  The  flute  used  is  called  as  Tirio  which  has  seven  holes  and  is  viewed  as  a  symbol  of  love  and  affection.  Dhodro  banam  is  a bowed  instrument  used  in  the  dance  which  is  carved  out  of  a  single  log  of  wood  and  is  believed  to  be  grown  out  of  human  flesh.  The  Dhodro  banam  is  believed  to  have  a  belly  (lac)  covered  with  an  animal  skin  on  which  rests  the  bridge  (sadam,  lit,  horse),  an  open  chest  (korom),  a  short  neck  (hotok)  and  a  head  (bohok).  Head  or  Bohok  is  usually  carved  in  the  shape  of  human  head,  of  a  single  person  or  a  couple  or  group  of  human  beings  or  animals.  The  tuning  peg  is  inserted  in  the  ear  (lutur)  of  Bohok  and  gut  strings  comes  out  of  mouth.
Although,  like  other  ethnic  groups,  the  culture  of  Santhal  people  has  been  influenced  by  mainstream  Indian  culture  but  Santhali  dance  and  music  both  retain  their  connection  to  traditional  celebrations.  The  dance  of  this  tribe  not  only  divulge  the  culture  and  traditions  of  Santhals  but  also  showcases  the  potency  of  harmony.   Santhals  are  believed  to  be  very  close  to  nature  so  their  dance  form  also  expresses  love  and  gratitude  to  nature.