Monday, 27 August 2012

Odissi Dance From A Wheelchair

In my post 'Dancing Without A Leg', I narrated how the well-known danseur Guru Nityanda Das, even after losing a leg in an accident, continues to dance and teach Odissi dance with one leg. I had also narrated how the famous danseuse Sudha Chandran of Nache Mayuri fame, after losing a leg, continues dancing with an artificial leg. Here is another wonder.

While surfing for Odissi dance, I came across an incredible and wonderful Odissi dance presentation by the late Ankita Panda - from a wheelchair!!! I also found another wonder, a piece titled 'My Dream Comes True' by her. Ankita was born with a spinal disorder and so was unable to walk but she had a dream - a dream to perform a dance on stage.Read all about her dream and how she realised her dream, by clicking on the link. Here are two videos, a presentation by her on the 28th Dec. 2008 in the National Children's Festival and another at the Gurudakshina Utsav.

Monday, 20 August 2012

T- Series: Tea as Beauty-Aid

In my post titled ‘High tea’, I had quoted a parody advising everyone to have tea in the morning, tea in the evening and tea after supper.

Here is another use of tea, as a beauty-aid.

1. Tea-banana paste
Take two table-spoons of tea-dust and a peeled ripe banana. Mix these well in a glass container. Apply this paste on the face. Wash it off with cold water after 15-20 minutes. You will notice that spots on your face have disappeared and your face has an extra glow!

2. Tea, Rice Flour and Lime-juice Paste
Prepare a paste with 3 spoons of rice-flour, two spoons of tea-dust and 2-3 drops of lime-juice. Mix well. Apply this on face and massage like scrubbing. Wash it off with cold water after 20 minutes. All black heads on the face and dry cells below the eyes will come out.

3. Tea-Chocolate Face pack
Both tea and chocolate act as anti-oxidants. Make a paste of 3-4 table spoons of coco powder and 2-3 spoons of tea-dust and apply it on face. Wash it off with cold water after 15-20 minutes. It works like anti-ageing cream. It removes ageing marks and wrinkles on the face.

4. Tea and Cornflour Pack
Prepare a paste of 3 table spoons of corn-flour and two table spoons of tea-dust. Apply it on face and wash it off after 10-15 minutes. It brightens the face and improves its complexion.

5. Tea, Oats and Honey Paste
Make a powder with half a cup of oats. Make a paste with it with 3 table spoons of tea and half spoon of honey. Apply it on face and wash it off with cold water after 20 minutes. It makes the skin soft and glowing.

SOURCE: The Odia daily Sambad of 19th Aug 2012

Ageing males also can try these to look younger!

Friday, 17 August 2012

Megh Malhar

Legend has it that when the great musician Tansen played Rag Megh Malhar, it used to bring rain and when he played Rag Deepak, lamps got lighted!
Rain is special in many ways; it supports life in the form of water. Monsoon has always been associated with romantic feelings. A splash of rain stirs the imagination of artists through the ages. Over the years, the magic of monsoon and its myriad colours have been depicted in India by poets, musicians and artists, epitomized by Kalidasa’s celebrated creation, Meghadutam. Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi, Odisha Sahitya Akademi and Odisha Lalit Kala Akademi jointly organized, on the 9th, 10th and 11th August, 2012, Megh Utsav, a celebration of the monsoon through literature, painting, music and dance. It had 3 parts, viz. Recitation of poems & Literary Meet, Artists’ Camp and Music & Dance Festival. The wife and I had the good fortune of attending the Music & Dance Festival.
The events were organized with a lot of thoughtful planning. On all the 3 days, people who came to attend, were greeted at the entrance by two petite young ladies; one presented to each, a small garland of Rajanigandha, and the other applied a tika of sandalwood-paste on our foreheads. As we entered the well-planned auditorium with very good acoustics, flashes of light and a roaring sound, creating the effect of lightening and thunder, greeted us. The backdrop of the stage had pictures of rain, clouds and enchanting rainbow. As we took our seats, droplets of water fell on us, startling us a little. (This was repeated on the second and third days.) We soon realised that this was for creating a perfect atmosphere of monsoon. This complemented the torrential rain lashing the earth outside the hall. So, even before the actual programme began, we were overwhelmed, to say the least. These created a perfect mood to savour the festival.
The programme began with Odissi songs by Guru Ramahari Das. The lyrics, the singing and the accompanying instrumental music were heavenly. He started with a song from Kalidas’s Ritu Samhar and followed it up with songs by the legendary Odia poet Jaydev of Geet Govind fame, songs from Odia Bhagabat by the great poet Jagannath Das and songs by more recent lyricists. This was followed by presentations by Kolkata’s Pramita Mallick, a leading exponent of Rabindra Sangeet. She enthralled the audience by her melodious singing.The last presentations of that evening were by the internationally famed Hindustani classical singer Shubha Mudgal from Mumbai. She presented a repertoire of Thumri, Chaiti, Kajri and Dadra. The common thread that bound all the presentations, were the theme of monsoon, its romance, its pathos and even its devastations.
The second evening started with vocal presentations of Odissi Raganga, Chhanda and compositions of the 19th Century Odia poet Upendra Bhanja by the well-known Odissi singer Guru Bijay Kumar Jena. This was followed by vocal presentations of Odissi songs, and Chhanda compositions of Gopalakrishna and Upendra Bhanja by the eminent singer Mohapatra Minati Bhanj.. We were simply enthralled by the divine music. The third item consisted of two Odissi dance numbers, Barsha Varnali (different shades of monsoon) and Barsha Abhisar (celebration of the arrival of monsoon), by artists from Odisha Dance Academy. Barsha Varnali depicted the cycle of rain. Like the first faltering steps by a child, rain arrives hesitantly. The rushing brook or the little stream does not know where she is going. After that she creates her own impulsive passage of flowing water. Barsha Abhisar depicted the arrival of the rains and the parched soil eagerly welcomes its arrival. The cooling drops of the first rain arouses myriad sensations in the mind. The last presentation was Bhojpuri Songs and Dance by Ajay Dubey and Group from Patna. The underlying theme was again celebration of monsoon.
The presentations on the concluding evening were Carnatic Music by T M Krishna from Chennai, contemporary dance ‘Saawan’ by Padatik Dance Centre, Kolkata and folk dance ‘Jhoomer’ by Sajan Bal Group from Mayurbhanj, Odisha. The joys and sorrows, the customs and daily rituals of the people featured in those songs and dance-numbers. All the presentations were superb and transported us to an ethereal world.
The whole programme was a delight to the soul. I had read somewhere that 'sound' is not to be confused with noise. The two are qualitatively different as are 'Prana' and mere air. Music is based on sound but all sound is not music. After enjoying the Megh Utsav, one felt like jumping out and getting drenched in pouring rain. :)))))))))))))))))))
The intoxication continued over me for days.


It never rains, it always pours!

It was Shakespeare who said, "If music be the food for love, give me more of it."
This evening, Indian Council For Cultural Relations is organising a Programme titled 'Malhar ke Rang .... Kalyan ke Sang' at Bhubaneswar. Wah... Wah!!!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012



Let us be optimistic.

Monday, 6 August 2012

High Tea

In my last post Good Faith III, I had narrated how some bankers who act in good faith but are not blessed by Lady Luck, suffer and have to make do with the tea and sympathy of others. Talking of tea, my mind meandered to the world of tea. This piece will be about the all-pervading tea which has become an integral part of human living.

It is said that tea sprang from the eye-lids of Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. Bodhidharma meditated for 9 years. During this marathon meditation, he once became tired and dozed off. After waking up, he was so upset that to prevent himself from falling asleep again, he cut off his eye-lids and threw them away. The compassionate deity Quan Yin caused a tea plant to spring from the spot where the eye-lids had fallen. Bodhidharma brewed the leaves and found that it helped him to keep awake.

In another popular Chinese legend, Shennog, the legendary Emperor of China was once drinking a bowl of boiled water when a few leaves from a nearby tree were blown away and fell into the bowl. The colour of the water changed. Out of curiosity, he took a sip of it and was pleasantly surprised by its flavour. Then he introduced this brew to his people and this aromatic brew became a popular beverage.

Cultivation and brewing of tea in India has long been associated with traditional system of medicine. However, commercial production of tea in India started only after the arrival of British East India Company. Later, China overtook India in producing tea.

When I was working in Kolkata, we once visited Darjeeling. Darjeeling Tea is one of the best in its aroma and flavour. The view of tea-gardens on the slopes of hills there were a heavenly sight. Another memory of our Darjeeling visit is that clouds used to float into our room in the Bank’s Holiday Home, located on a hill-top, where we were staying. I enjoyed dashing against the moisture-bearing clouds and getting slightly wet. It was a great feeling.

This reminds me of the song ‘Ek kali do pattiyan…’ (A bud and two leaves) sung by the great Assamese vocalist Bhupen Hazarika (Lyric by Gulzar). The reference was to the process of tea-plucking where the bud and the two tender leaves at the tip of branches of tea-plants are plucked to produce dust-tea or leaf tea. Workers, mostly women, deftly pluck tea-leaves and skillfully put them into the deep baskets tied to their back. It is a sight worth watching.The first 4 lines of this soulful song run like this:
Ek kali do pattiyan
Najuk najuk unguliyan
Tod rahi hai kaun re ek kali do pattiyan
Ratanpur baagiche mein.

Here's the full song:

Since ages, tea has been used as a stimulating drink by people. In our childhood, we were taught that stimulating beverages like tea and coffee were harmful to health and were advised against them. So I developed a view and never took up the habit. After marriage the wife, who had and has the habit of taking tea every morning, tried hard to convert me to her side. In my turn, I tried my best to wean her away from this habit. And both lost. Then we entered into a truce for peaceful co-existence on the principle of 'live and let live'. I am not a ‘tea-totaller’ but not a habitual tea-drinker as well. A glass of milk in the morning and another in evening make my cup of happiness full.

I do not know whether Lord Krishna, the Makhan Chor, loved to take only butter or milk and milk-products as well. I love milk and all milk-products, so much so that my mother used to call me ‘cat’.

A large number of people cannot do without the morning ‘cuppa that cheers’. The late Krishna Menon who was Defence Minister under Nehru, was known to have endless cups of tea throughout the day.

Tea has become the easiest and cheapest way of entertaining unannounced visitors. During my college-days, when I used to visit my friends, their mothers used to offer me tea but I used to politely decline, saying that I did not take tea. I was the gainer for saying that. In order not to leave their children’s dear friend un-entertained, the loving mothers used to offer me more substantial and more healthful drinks or cookies. When I was working in the Bank, I used to entertain the visiting customers with tea but I was not joining them. However, when I used to visit the customers, I used to accept the tea offered by them in order not to make them feel awkward.

In my Bank, everywhere the subsidized canteens used to supply tea to the staff-members twice, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. My boss at one place never used to take tea. He used to comment light-heartedly that people get tired soon after reaching office and so need to take tea to stimulate them to work!!!

There are different kinds of tea, viz. milk tea, black tea, lemon tea, ginger tea etc, for each according to her or his taste.

Tea has created a group of highly-skilled professionals, the tea-tasters. Due to climatic conditions, topography and manufacturing-processes, tea acquires different flavours and appearances. Tea-tasters are employed to taste and certify the quality and grade of the tea produced. With a large spoon, a tea-taster noisily slurps the tea. This way, both the tea and plenty of oxygen are passed over all the taste-receptors in the tongue to give an even taste of the profile of the tea. Then the liquid is spat out.(Imagine the taster drinking in all the tea that she/he tastes during a day!) According to the sensation in the taste-buds, the taster certifies the quality of the tea. Tea-tasting is an art supported by science. It is a gifted career in the industry.

Tea has a special place in American history. The ‘Boston Tea Party’ is a landmark in the history of American independence. The Americas were British colonies. Almost all of the settlers were of British origin but the colonies had little say in their own administration. The attempts of British King George III to tax tea increased the resentment against the British. The colonies refused to pay taxes claiming they had no obligation to pay taxes imposed by the British Parliament in which they had no representation. ‘No Taxation without Representation’ became a popular slogan. In 1773, the British Parliament gave East India Company, monopoly to import tea to America. When 3 ships laden with tea arrived at Boston port, about 200 men entered the ships and threw the cargoes into the sea. This came to be known as ‘Boston Tea Party’. The movement gathered momentum; 3 years later, on the 4th of July 1776, America declared independence and became U S A.

Talking of so much about tea, I am reminded of the saying, ‘There’s many a slip between the cup and the lip.’. It implies that even when the outcome of an event appears to be certain, things can still go wrong. The expression has its origin in Greek legend. An Argonaut – a person engaged in dangerous but rewarding quests – returned home to his winery. A soothsayer had earlier predicted that Argonaut would die before he tasted another drop of wine. After returning safe from a dangerous journey, Argonaut called the soothsayer and toasted him. In reply, the soothsayer repeated the saying. Finishing his toast, Argonaut raised a cup filled with wine to his lips but before taking a sip, he was called to hunt a wild boar. He put down the cup and moved to first confront the boar planning to come back to his cup after completing the job. He was killed by the boar and could never return to his cup!

Because of its use in adding sugar to tea, one size of spoons got the name 'tea-spoon', another type being called  'table spoon'. Tea-spoons have been accepted as a standard of measurement. In cooking, the tea-spoon' is widely used, e.g., 'one tea-spoon full turmeric powder' etc.

The story of tea would be incomplete without mentioning Japanese Tea Ceremony, a solemn and a very special event of enjoying the austere taste of tea, quietly and serenely. It is an elaborate and stylised preparation of a pot of tea that is served in formal near-silence in a beautiful bowl to 5 or 6 guests. It can go on for as long as 4 hours. It is like meditation as the Japanese prepare, serve and drink tea very reverently, aesthetically and meditatively. It is about being focused. The idea is: Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis around which the world revolves - slowly, evenly, without rushing towards the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.
A Question
There are ‘Coffee Houses’ which intellectuals visit and discuss various matters concerning human society over a never-ending stream of beverage. There is a famous short story ‘Coffee House’ by Rabindranath Tagore. Why are there no ‘Tea Houses’?

Tea in the morning, tea in the evening, tea at supper-time;
You get tea when it is raining, tea when it is snowing;
Tea when the weather is fine.
(A parody to McGuire Sisters’ 1958 song ‘Sugartime’)