Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Delhi's Durga Puja - 2012

Like every year, I went around the city covering all the major Durga Puja pandals and meeting so many new people on my way. And like every year, I found it all the more fascinating.
This year, I had planned to visit the Pujas on Saptami and Ashtami, leaving the Navami to myself (which I eventually spent being ill and sitting at home).
So here's more or less an account of my 2012 tour-de-delhi-pujas.
We started on 21st October afternoon to cover all the Pujas at Chittaranjan Park area. The place gets too crowded in the evening and stays like that till late night for which he had suffered last year. Hence, visiting the pandals in the afternoon proved to be a good decision although it didn't allow us to appreciate the lighting intricacies (which seems too bland in comparison to Kolkata).
Nobo Polli Durga Puja - CR Park

Mela Ground Durga Puja - CR Park
CR Park Kali Bari Durga Puja
People at CR Park Kali Bari
CR Park Co-Operative Durga Puja
CR Park Co-Operative Durga Puja's Pandal
CR Park B-Block Durga Puja
CR Park - B-Block Durga Puja Pandal
Purbasha Kali Bari Durga Puja - Ramakrishna  Vihar

After the colorful journey through our favorite Durga Pujas in the rich Bengali hub of Delhi, we planned to call it a day. On our way back we hopped on Purbasha Kali Mandir Durga Puja and Kaushambi Durga Puja.

Kaushambi Durga Puja - Ghaziabad

The next day we decided to cover the Pujas all around the capital. Since no two important Pujas are closely spaced, the traffic problem is not as serious as it gets in CR Park area. So evening was the preferred time of visit.
Our first stop was the Kashmiri Gate Durga Puja which is rumored to be the oldest Durga Puja in Delhi.

Kashmiri Gate Durga Puja - the oldest Puja in New Delhi
From there we went to Minto Road Kali Bari Durga Puja, one of the most awarded and visited Durga Pujas in Delhi. It is also one of the oldest.

The idol at Minto Raad Kali Bari Durga Puja

From Minto Road we headed towards New Delhi Kali Bari Durga Puja, which was the most crowded of all the Pujas we visited this year. This made taking a good picture very difficult.
New Delhi Kali Bari Durga Puja
The wave of devotees at Delhi Kali Bari Durga Puja

Then we headed southwards to reach Matri Mandir Durga Puja at Safdarjung Enclave, last year’s runners up in the Best Puja competition of Delhi. This year the theme of Matri Mandir Puja was the Olympic and the pandal was decorated in the context of India’s dream run at the Olympics.
Pandal of Matri Mandir Durga Puja, Safdarjang Enclave
 Idol at Matri Mandir Durga Puja, Safdarjang Enclave 
 People at Matri Mandir Durga Puja, Safdarjang Enclave 

Matri Mandir had invited Chandrabindu to perform on Ashtami and the program was very well held. Chandrabindu, being one of the most popular Bengali bands, could glue us down to our seats till the very end of the show.
 Chandrabindu performing at Matri Mandir Durga Puja, Safdarjang Enclave 

It was late and we still had to cover Mayur Vihar.
Mayur Vihar was on the way back. It was 1o’clock in the night when we reached the Miloni Durga Puja, last year’s champions. People had left the pandal for it was too late but it gave us a nice time to stare into its intricacies in awe. The idol was mesmerizing and was the one of the most innovative idols of this year’s Puja.
Miloni Durga Puja, Mayur Vihar-I
We came back tired, yet fulfilled.

The four days were spent fast. As I pointed out earlier, these four days were indeed spent as if in trance. The dhunuchi naach with the beats of the dhaak, the new pair of jeans, the creased shirts, the gathering in pandals and chatting with friends, so so many things done, in such a small window of time.
 About Delhi’s Durga Puja 2012, this year’s Pujas in Delhi were undoubtedly better than last year’s and may God will, it will be even better in 2013.
Asche bochor abar Hobe! (Next year, it’ll happen again)    

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Durga Puja

Fill your lungs to blow out into the shannkh, roll your lips and join the ululululu party, empty your stomach to gorge into her majesty, the street food, and relax your calf muscles enough so that you can manage to walk the long queues outside the pandal, because Ma Durga has arrived. And like every year, this year it will be more special, it will be more colorful and will be celebrated with more vigor, because Ma Durga has arrived. One of the many amazing things about Durga Puja is the way it has stitched itself to the culture of us bengalis. We look forward to these four days, the entire year. People invest a good 4-5 month period to prepare. And then when Ma Durga comes, the days are spent in a flash, like unnoticed, as if leaving the people in a state of trance, and then begins the plans for the next years Puja.
I do have plans to visit all the good Puja in and around Delhi and to eat at some of the best Bengali places, and attend some good programs too. I wish you all have a fantastic Durga Puja and may Ma Durga bestow her blessings on all of you.
Here's wishing you all a happy Durga Puja.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Curious Case of Rani Mukherjee

She is doing it.
She is trying to get into the shoes of wanted Salman Khan
and Singham Ajay Devgn,
and Rowdy Akahay Kumar.
The first women centric mindless comedy is hers.
She tries to sizzle the mood of her once-loving audience by toning her body up, learning to flex the muscles her belly while keeping her hands up in the air... She is trying as hard as she had never tried.. 
I feel a pinch of pain every single time I stumble upon the trailer of Aiyyaa, Rani Mukherjee's latest movie. I don't know whether it is out of the sheer love that I once savored for her, or the special bong connection, that I go back to watch the trailer again and again and specially her dance moves. Watching her jump and pump and do all sorts of things she never mastered doing, seeing her trying so hard to catch the limelight a little more than her co-dancers, almost feeling the pain she must be suffering from trying to come back to the mainstream cinema, I turn the video off.
Nothing in life is constant.
And nothing excess in life stays long. 
We may talk about ideal scenarios but they might just be countable exceptions. The devotion and regard that Amitabh Bacchan has drawn over his long-spanning acting career is one of its kind. It is not only a far fetched dream of every actor, but also a glorious example of constancy in class. And, coming back to Rani Mukherjee, 
Her loss of stardom after delivering perhaps her best performance in Black, makes her career case a very curious one. What is more interesting is the fact that she is still considered to be a great actress. Her prowess of acting is never questioned.
Black was the summit of Rani Mukherjee's acting career. She reached a place where many Indian actresses could only imagine of reaching. She was able to bring both tears in her audience's eye as well as motivate them to stand up against all odds. She received all kinds of appreciation from all types of corners. She took it all.
Then came the cruel hard truth.
Then came unimportant forgettable roles. Then came the roles which could simply not match that of Michelle McNally.
Then came the Mangal Pandey s, the Baabul s , the Tara Ram Pum Pum s which were sent back from the cinema halls in a week’s time.
Even worse, these roles left the audience with a bitter taste. The movies with her face in the poster didn't seem to be as appealing as they used to be. She couldn't survive the competition from her zero figure rivals and her desperation showed. Her role in a movie called Dil Bole Hadippa, was actually crying for attention. Just like a 4 year old baby would cry trying to divert her mother's attention from her 2 year old sister. This was saddening for her admirers.
Rani Mukherjee’s career is a classic example of a crack under expectations coupled with a phase of bad-luck. It’s not that she has downgraded her class, or the status of her production, but the roles penned for her failed to ignite any appreciation from her audience. This could also be because of the bar she herself had raised in Black. She gave people something to compare herself with, but couldn't perform that well subsequently. Her constant failures resulting in her desperation to make a movie click can now be identified in her acting. Her natural grace, her natural charm is heading south.
Being an ardent fan of Rani Mukherjee, I might end up buying tickets of Aiyyaa and once again disappoint myself and my partner, but from the very core of my heart I wish the film well. I wish it becomes a hit and Rani Mukherjee comes back. I wish all the hard work she has done to shed her flabs and then to belly-dance those shredded flabs pays off. I wish people don't write her off and give her a cruel farewell from cinemas, much like Saurav Ganguly got from the cricket savvy nation. I wish we get to see some more emotionally affecting performances from her in unforgettable roles. I wish I like the movie and come back and write at least one good review about it.
Here’s hoping that Aiyyaa turns out to be a hit and Rani Mukherjee starts getting liked again.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Simple Things and Nostalgia

Simple things in life have an everlasting presence.
They follow us round, they have an unforgettable essence.
They tie us down to the man we really are
They force us into memories, the ones we really care.

I still remember stepping out into the rain
From the school bus back home and never complain
For the umbrella mum had kept, inside it remained
Walking back home with Gaurav, essentially drenched
And we would talk about BT, we would talk about class
And we would look out to the eight floor, onto that Santro rear glass
And when she would go inside, "oh! that pretty"
We would realize that time had flown to three thirty
But today,
If it rains even a bit, I draw the curtains and pull up the window panes
I bring myself in, I cause myself that pain.

And Raghav, Nimit, Ashish and me
Together we would always be
To spend those two years in the blink of an eye
To sweat the games period, or to be the catcher in the rye
We once walked from school to Mother Dairy to save a few bucks
But why did Ashish Chadda join us with his shirt un-tucked
For he wanted to be with us till the point he could
It never mattered how slow we walked or how bad was his post-exam-mood
But today,
Even if we're near, time never lets us meet
But we all are happy to have memories too sweet.

I still cherish eating fuchkas by the Durgapur streets
Standing the long queue, it would be a place for us friends to meet.
The 2 rupee coin has never again been that precious
For it bought 5 fuchkas, which with every bite got more delicious
For every time it filled my mouth I felt life's beauty
For every time I had it, I could skip the night's boring dinner roti
But today,
Although fuchkas still rule the streets, and ample money fills the pocket's hollow 
Although the price of the fuchkas have gone up, but lesser has become their priced value

I remember walking with Sailesh & Gaurav on Kaushambi streets
We would cross the big heart topics and check out the women fleet..
We would comment upon every passerby and laugh out loud
We would sit on the Kanchenjunga bench, to make our parents proud.
For it was a relief to hear and to be heard without any conditions applied
For it was a time when laughter mattered with friends growing alongside
But today,
As I walk alone by the same old street and see the kids with their stories spurn
I pass a slight grin of disgust and get to hear their laughter in return 

However you are, where ever you may be glued
Take a time out and remember the days which loved you and only you'd
The times you'd spend only for yourself
The miles you'd walk to treat your mood's health
The times which have landed you in that bright yellow spot
The people on whom you'd lay your worthy trust
Get tied down to the man you really are
Get forced into memories, the ones you really care.

PS: an overreaction of a sudden nostalgia .. and love.. ;)

Sunday, October 07, 2012

English Vinglish - A GangVani rear-view

There are two types of knowledgeable people.
First are those who know something and make a big deal out of it. They are the ones who want the world to know about their prowess of knowledge and boast of being superior to many by the virtue of what they have come to know, in the process hurting or humiliating those who don't have that knowledge.
And to constitute the second type, there are people who know a lot of things and yet are able to keep themselves grounded. They don't really show off their knowledge to gain superiority, but in stead prefer passing a slight grin when someone else shows off in front of them.

Apart from Sri Devi's atypical Hindi accent( for someone who knows only Hindi), everything in Gauri Shinde's English-Vinglish comes as a breeze of fresh air into the movie hall. People should watch it for their mothers, with their mothers. Sri Devi portrays the role of Shashi, a typical higher-middle class home maker and mother of two, who gets up every morning and goes to bed every night without spending a minute in between for herself. She loves making laddus and also sells it to the local neighborhood only to get mocked by her non-appreciating "busy-in-a-meeting" husband at the end of the day. Although her life revolves around her kids but she doesn't get the respect she deserves because of her scrimpy knowledge of the English language. Her daughter feels ashamed to introduce her to her friend's mother, her husband feels uncomfortable to hug a lady colleague in front of her, but strangely though, inside all this unjustified 'judgmental' atmosphere Shashi is shown to have found peace. Shashi, like all mothers, forgives. And perhaps that is why she continues to survive with equal determination and equal love everyday. Coming back to the plot.
Shashi's sister who lives in New York, informs them about the wedding of Shashi's niece. Shashi is forced to go 4 weeks in advance to New York, and that too all alone to help her sister arrange the wedding. Although unwilling to leave her family alone, Shashi sets foot on New York. A country of unknowns, unknown faces, unknown food, unknown culture and most importantly unknown language.
Here begins the adventure of transformation and self-realization.

There are no negative characters in this film. Everything is circumstantial.
How often do we yell at our mothers out of no important reasons?
How often do we get irritated at their asking simple questions which seem silly to our complicated brains? When we miss our girl friend, we make it a point to tell her that so that she gets to know that and misses us in return, but do we do the same for our mothers? How many of us have called up their mothers to tell her that we miss her? The number would be very few. 
Do we communicate with her so well, that she can tell us how much she misses us?
Don't we find it "uncool" sitting amongst our friends when she calls up to know where we are?
In the process of growing up, we tend to forget the factor that always stays with us. We tend to take her for granted and never really care that she might get hurt at our actions. We treat her in the worst possible way, we get rude, we manhandle her emotions as we know that no matter what, she will never go away. She will forgive and love us back.
And the funny part is, these things doesn't make us the villains.
English Vinglish is an eye opener for those who have ignored their home makers. Its for those who feel inferior to walk hand-in-hand with their mothers because its not "cool". Its for those who educate themselves and consider their mothers illiterate. Its to show how fake is that education. Its for those who love their mothers, but never make her feel loved. Watch it to hear the words your mother might not ever say to you, as you will never ask how she really feels. Watch it to celebrate motherhood. Watch it to get grounded.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

The Delhi Biryani Quest – search for the best Biryani in Delhi – Part – One

If you wiki “Biryani”, you will get to know that it is a rice-based food cooked with spices and meat, fish, eggs (and sometimes even vegetables). You will also get to know that the dish was invented by the Mughals to feed their army, as it was too difficult to feed such a huge pool of hungry people with rotis and paranthas. Well for us, Biryanis need no formal introduction as we have been smacking our taste buds with this beautifully mysterious dish for long. I call it mysterious because the taste of a Biryani can never be the same at two different restaurants. My quest for the best Biryani has taken me places. Right from the local street-side-30-rupees-per-plate-chicken-biryani to the ambient par elegance of Maurya Sheraton’s Bukhara, I have tried and tested (and tasted) many authentic and non-authentic jugaadu Biryanis and have confirmed that no two biryanis taste the same. In this five part series I will share some of my notable experiences while tasting this amazing dish and would like to receive your suggestions and thoughts to enrich my list of eateries.

1.   The Golconda Bowl
****/ 5
The Golconda Bowl is a newly opened restaurant located in the streets of HauzKhas village. HauzKhas village provides the perfect stage for a casual weekend getaway. Especially these days, when the Sun has mellowed down its mercy and the October sky looks like a canvas of cloud painting, the tomb of Feroze-Shah Tughlaq in its calm serene historical surrounding seems all the more welcoming. And after spending the morning drenched in the ruins of history, walk into the Golconda Bowl to treat your taste buds with some age-old recipes ofHyderabadi cuisines.
The Golconda Bowl offers three types of Biryanis. For non-veg lovers they have The Kacchegoshtki Biryani and the Murg-Dum Biryani and for vegetarians they serve the subz-Dum Biryani. The murg-Dum Biryani was an absolute delight. Long Basmati rice, smeared with just the right amount of ghee and spices (which left it with just the right amount of the rich aroma, biryani lovers crave for,) was cooked with juicy and melt-in-mouthmarinated chicken pieces. The kesar left it with a reddish tint and a majestic smell. The dish itself looked very tasty. It was made even tastier by the free flowing Indian classical music playing softly in the background. As a side dish, the Halim was excellent, which is basically a Mughlai spicy daal cooked with creamy mashed chicken. Although the place is a bit over-priced but you will be delighted enough, while paying the bill, to not care. All in all, this restaurant provides a nice calm place which uplifts the mood with its great food and ambience. Four Stars to The Golconda Bowl.

Readers are requested to suggest their awesome experiences with this awesome dish and spread the word.

Monday, October 01, 2012

OMG-Oh My God - A GangVani rear view

At the outset, OMG-Oh My God is a brilliant movie with a fitting and a very believable message. The excellently acted script has the ability to enrapture the audience, the young, the aged, the rich, the poor, the atheist or the devotee. Not only because the movie works at the emotional level where it touches the devotion chord, but it is also based on lucid logic with which the modern-day non-believers can connect. The honest story-telling and the subtle comedy of OMG make it a special movie in many aspects.

Kanji Bhai, an atheist Gujarati businessman owns an antique shop in the chor bazaar of Mumbai. He means business and keeps himself completely away even from the small temple of Krishna, which his wife maintains in the house. Even so, he drags his family out of a religious event full of devotees, and vacates the entire place with his skill of public-engaging motivation-speaking. An act of divine revenge follows in which, his, and only his shop in the entire market gets destroyed in a selective earthquake. It later gets labeled as an 'act of God'. Left stranded in neck-deep borrowings, Kanji decides to drag God and the system of religion into court to seek justice.
Here begins his battle. Here is where it gets interesting.

A well-bound story line, commendable acting by Paresh Rawal, and the overall clean humor of the movie make up for the glitches. The audience get too happy to find faults with Akshay Kumar's (although a loveable) side role appearing bland. Spectacles might become a lucky charm for the struggling centurion actor.
OMG is a mock-mirror thrown at those who have made religion nothing but an apparatus to mint money. It is a joke on the sadhus, and the babas who in the name of religion give false hopes to innocent people in exchange of their daily wages. 
It brings back the faith of mankind to the almighty by means of light-minded humor and logic (which is usually kept at bay while explaining God).
Above all, it passes down a simple message that "God is everywhere".

This review will be incomplete if it doesn't praise the courage the producers of OMG to release this movie at a time when the religious sentiments of some people have been hurt. The movie conveys the age-old preaching of the oneness of religions in a humor-filled yet serious way.
Watch this first-of-its-kind devotional movie and get enthralled.

"Truth is one.
Sages call it by different names."

— Rig Veda (c. 4000 BC)