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The Goddess and her temporary shelter

Goddess Durga is worshiped in Calcutta. Just like Ganpati is said to descend during its Festival in Maharastha, Goddess Durga is said to descend onto Earth during this time. Months of preparation goes into  conceptualizing these temporary shelters for the Goddess, known as the pandal. A pandal “hopping” in early hours of morning helped me get these pictures above. These structures are a fascinating treat to the eyes.

A more critical analysis is given on my other blog, Pursuit of Imagination, as the post titled ” Five lessons in Installation Art 101 with Puja Pandal Hopping

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Kolkata Colours

Driving down the main and busy streets of Kolkata , you sometimes miss the beautiful architecture hidden behind the many wires of our civilized world and the din of our technological motors. Look closely, you see the pattern, colors and story behind it.

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Night lights

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As the day turns to night,

Glows an amber light,

Not of the warm sun,

But something magically fun.

 

Spiritual Tech

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If you were to roam around Bull Temple Road area early morning in Bangalore, you would perhaps see more flower and fruit sellers than other places. Women in swishing silk saris and the smell of filter coffee and freshly made Mangalore bun in the cafe across jostle for space with McDonald’s. An electric car which still looks in beta stage is parked outside the idli joint facing the temple.

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Cubbon park on a Sunday morning appears no different from central park, till of course you get into the interiors. It is there another world exists which is non-tech-ed, non-gizmo-ed and unrelated, strangely though part of the same whole.

Living on an island city

While each day I hope this will not be my last monsoon here and pray somehow that changes, it may be inevitable in the near future. Mumbai, is not a place you can comfortably afford to rent a house, leave aside buy one. The ones where you really may love to stay would have been already occupied by some crumbling construction, unyielding tenants or forbidding prices, unheard of sometimes. Recently at a seminar, one prominent chairman of a real estate company remarked that inequality is rising. I wondered what part of the balance I am on, maybe the one that is tilting down. Definitely not the one where the subzee ( veggies) are bought by the army of the the cook, maid and the driver of the least preferred car (generally a sedan) of the family.

Talking of grocery, south Mumbai is having a crisis of a type. The daily needs shops are disappearing. My favourite icecream shop shut and was soon after replaced with baskn robbns (Intentional typo). Then one monsoon, Akbarallys, one of the oldest shops in fort had an umbrella sale. I picked two but didn’t pick the other one I really liked. Next time thought I. That next time was not to come. Today they have metamorphosed the once crowded departmental store into a men’s store. This for one thing completely restricts even my entry into the shop. Gloomily, I made my way to the next nearest departmental store for groceries today. Disappointed at not even finding basics stocked, I hastily retreated along with another couple going through the door.

“It looks like it is about to shut down.” remarked the gentleman. We exited into the street, they towards the interior of the colony and me crossing Indian Merchant’s Chambers gate to complete my walk on marine drive.

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Years ago, Marine drive was known as “queen’s necklace”. The warm glow of yellow light would hazily gleam as though beads strung together. Till around 6 months back. Then some D@#$ decided to save on the power bill, changing the look to some cheap white plastic beads.

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“The look of Kala Ghoda is changing” I mentioned to a designer who said that she had been involved in the project.

She gleamed. I expressed my unhappiness as if my playground had been tampered with.

“The new plan for that area, I know the people who are working on it. They will take care of the look” She reassured.

Somehow I am still not convinced. But movement is inevitable. When cities die, you need to move on too.

Bombay Neglect

Nostalgia is when you think and remember about something which has happened in the past. But what do you call the feeling of ownership over which you never experienced before and live in it.

Let me explain. I live in this building which very soon will be a hundred years old. It’s not the only one in the locality. This is the old part of Mumbai. Most buildings here are the same age. Some shops proudly display the made-in-last-century tag on their facades. There are not many people who live here now. And perhaps lesser who love the old world charm.

Recently one of the oldest departmental stores rebranded itself. Into a men’s store, trying to keep up with the changing face of the environment. I’m glad that I picked a great ice-cream scoop and umbrella before it shut shop to renovate and its shelves replaced with men’s attire instead of exotic lemon pickle. While this financial district of the past is now gradually transforming into a fashion promenade, with likes of Feragammo and other luxury shops opening up, there is a bit of pain at seeing the old shops disappear giving way to the new.

You then drive over the newly built flyovers and glance at countless facades of intricate detail given to neglect, waiting for them to crumble, so the land may be reused. You look at this beautiful entrance hidden under wires near Parsi Dairy and wonder what it must have been newly built.

Then it strikes you what is really missing in this part of the town. It’s not the lack of space; it’s the beauty and of not using it well.

Municipal building in Bombay

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Adjacent to the Central Line Railway station is the municipal building. If you remember my post where I saw this building, I was amazed at the architecture from afar. Go closer and you tend to rub shoulders with others on this busy intersection at evening time while cabbies line up to hurry commuters home.

Only one wish. Wish it was lit better to enhance the architectural detail.

Visit to Karla Caves

Around 15 kms from Lonavala is Karla, a serene town famed for its caves said to be dated as old as 200 BC. I had promised in my last post about the Lonavala visit that I would blog about this next, but didn’t get to it till today. Editing visuals and deciding which ones to share, got a bit of an onerous task and then I finally decided that I’ll share more than a few today and make this a visual journey for you.

Karla caves are 4 kms interior into the town. After a winding drive uphill, the vehicle stops at a parking area and we proceed rest of the journey on foot, over a hundred steps up through a winding path, surrounded by souvenir shops on both sides. Some local women sell lemonade called “shikhanji” on the way and other paraphernalia for offering to the temple which is also situated there.

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We didn’t stop but climbed upwards. After ten minutes climb we reached an open space with the caves and also an ancient temple next to it. You can’t take footwear inside the compound and another set of enterprising women had set up an open “shop” to deposit your footwear.

The caves were everything I had imagined to be and much more. The inner sanctum was cool and quiet, the stillness only disturbed by the occasional gasps from the tourists or excited cacophony as the stone marvel was experienced. The Wooden rafters on the ceiling were interesting shaped and I wondered the sense of architecture that prevailed.

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While all pillars looked identical, close observation revealed differences in the figures and orientation of the elephant. This visit was in my to-do list for a long time. I was intrigued to visit them after seeing a beautifully intricate print in the Museum , made in 17th century. This month, that image got to life and I got to touch the stones weathered over time, but intact in their position.

Haji Ali

When you are new to Mumbai and cross into the town (south Mumbai island) from Worli, you would notice a mausoleum in middle of the bay on the left side of the road. This is Haji Ali. There would also be many pictures of Haji Ali in the guide books, a solitary building in the middle of the sea connected by a thin strip of land. The beauty of Mumbai is that the culture changes with every sub community and Haji Ali is no different. The entry to the Mausolem is next to a petrol pump, just after a picturesque police station which is built like a hut. You move forward on the kachha road (paved road) with shops on one side exhibiting and selling cloth and other offerings for the religious place. You notice the sequined chaadar (offering cloth) among the aroma of the halwa. Souvenirs dot the entire way till you reach the thin strip of walkway built in centre of the rocks. At high tide and monsoons this place would have water on both sides. Birds like the egrets and gulls would be flying around or foraging.

After 200 meters or so you will see the entrance and steps leading up the structure. After depositing the shoes with a safe keeper, you are allowed inside to pay respects to the saint. Some people buy a shiny cloth called the chaadar or a string to tie at the gate. Most crowded days are Fridays and during festivals.

Cafe spotting in the centre of the south

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This wasn’t a history tour today nor was it site seeing. I had ten seconds to take this picture from my smartphone before hopping into the cab standing infront that took us home. We could’ve walked, it being a beautiful day. What is this building? It’s the central railway station. A longer post about Victoria terminus is here.

When you are not in a hurry like the average “mumbaikar” ( Bombay-ite) and its not yet peak traffic time,( and the weather is fine), its a pleasure to be here. With the crowds shifting to the suburbs, the south island of Bombay is an island of peace on the weekends. We learned last evening  to our dismay, that our favorite ice-cream shop had shut shop. Ditto with a food chain we had just discovered. Now the nearest we can go for an ice-cream, is near this monumental structure. And if you be nice to the taxi-wallah, he is very well behaved too and will drop you wherever you want. Being a local-ite has its advantages. You learn more than one way to get to the destination. And all the bylanes too! People recognize you when you go for a walk. And chances are that even in a so called crowded place like Bombay(south) you can still run into friends or neighbors. Maybe in some ways unnoticed, South Mumbai is shrinking.

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