Monday, 18 February 2013

RESIDENCY


REVOLT IN RUINS


It had been a long slumber stay at home that had forced me to travel and on top of my ‘to do’ list in Lucknow was the visit to The Residency. For those who are not familiar with it, The Residency is a township built by the Nawabs of Awadh as a residential facility for the British General, who was a representative in the Court of the Nawabs and others, who served the Queen as well, after the capital of Awadh shifted from Faizabad to Lucknow. Its construction was commenced by Nawab Asafuddaula in 1775 A.D. and was completed under the supervision of Nawab Sa’adat Ali Khan in 1800 A.D., additions were made later as well. The Residency narrates some of the very important chapters of our history since it a symbol of our first fight for independence, ‘the Siege of Lucknow’.

A Rs.5 ticket seemed menial for the elaborate history the place oozes, but being unemployed at present, I am glad. As I walked towards the small door opening, embedded inside an enormous gate, my imagination painted a million pictures for me and when I entered, I wasn’t let down either. Now, if you are expecting a scene out of some Hollywood movie depicting a post war USSR ghost town whose name you can’t pronounce or spell, where the only inhabitants are dogs and squirrels, where the mist is crawling out of every opening of the remains and debris, and your thoughts are the only words audible; I would suggest you visit The Residency during harsh Lucknow winters when the fog engulfs the city for most part of the day. So one such fine winter morning it was when I entered and was suddenly exposed to lots of ruined structures, something I don’t understand to the date why, architects crave for.

The Residency is made on a raised natural mound, which distinguishes it from the surrounding development, for gaining a vantage point during an attack. The structures inside the complex are generally enormous in size and made using thin bricks, which not only provide it with a beautiful texture, but also breaks down the geometry with its linear and non continuous nature. The Banquet Hall, built by Nawaab Sa’adat Ali Khan is a fine example of this. Some of the houses also sport a plaster, which for most part has been eroded, but has fortunately left mysterious Ionic capitals, to spark your imagination among the ruins. For those who have not seen the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad, this might just offer them a brief lesson on the Arch Construction techniques, since the exposed brick arches show the making of several kinds of Arches in a rudimentary, yet neat manner. It is interesting to see, and at times imagine from the ruins, a unique amalgamation of Islamic Architecture and construction techniques meeting the English aspiration, of that period. Not only the design of buildings, but the campus, which apart from various facilities, has a Mosque, Church and two cemeteries of different character in the same compound, a harmonious composition in planning. Thus, The Residency could also be considered as an initial step towards Indo-Saracenic Revival.
As the fog cleared its way for a warm winter sun, walking around the campus I lost the sense of period I belong to. It was not just the buildings, but minute details like the Iron benches, lamp post and signage; which according to a guide have been replicated from the remains found, that sets the tone for a pre independence era experience. Part of the brick walkways have been preserved, while the rest, have been restored in the same pattern throughout the campus considering their role in complimenting the brick structures on the site. Also interesting to see were the surprisingly efficient drainage system design and beautiful memorials sprinkled over the site.

Part of the main Residency building is converted into a Museum housing a scaled model of the residency, lithograph, sketches and paintings on the first floor and an elaborate exploration into the Seige of Lucknow through scripts, weapons and paintings, in the basement. It is here in the basement of the once upon a time main Administrative office of a British colony, where you feel the spark of patriotism as you see and read about the mutiny and the sacrifices made by the mutineers who fought India’s First War of Independence. Though the mutiny was brutally suppressed, it inspired many more revolts, which we dedicate our independence to today. This is what gives The Residency, an iconic status in our history. No matter what you read or hear about the Revolt of 1857, it is incomplete till you visit the Residency where the standing structures define the might of the British, while the damage represent the effort of the freedom fighters.

Before I end this article, I would like to appreciate the effort of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in maintaining delicate ruins of our history and amplifying the story these ruins wish to offer. Also I would suggest the visitors to feel free to invade the privacy of couples, engrossed in PDA, if they happen to come in your way of living a day in Pre-Independent India.
Another piece of information to be shared is that this piece of literature was written in Indian Coffee House of Lucknow, which was established in 1958 and boasts of patrons like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Atal Bihari Bajpai, Acharya Narendra Dev, Chandra Shekhar Singh, Amrit Lal Nagar, etc. The place sure is inspiring and economic; the Black coffee isn’t bad either.



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Saturday, 26 November 2011

CHAOTIC MAN TO BRIDGE THE GAP IN THE ANNA ERA, WILL HE?

        "Anna, the phoenix rises from the ash after a long time, but bigger and stronger this time. The Jan Lokpal disappointment had burned him enough, but this time he did it. He got every individual in this country thinking and every parliamentarian afraid of losing his seat in the decision making hall of the country".

   Just like any of my brother and sister of the republic of India, I read and heard a lot about Anna and this steaming hot topic boiled my brain to extract my own flavor of thoughts, which I would like to call “chaos” as of now for you, since this is my attempt to solve the billion dollar question, “should I join the Anna Brigade?” Though I am sure every bystander in the crowded bus stand or public square must have thought about it, I just took a step forward by messing up my brain further into the issue and suddenly the news papers and TV filled me so much in, relevant or irrelevant, that I got confused and thus the word defining that moment that first came to my mind was “chaos”. “Why chaos? It’s going to solve everything!” was the first reaction when I tried to assess my skepticism by talking to my friends, but what I couldn’t understand was how? And why and what piece of cake is everyone expecting out of it? What does Infosys get out of Anna? Won’t the opposition also be questioned about their history of corruption? Why are celebrities trying to hog the lime light in such an issue which doesn’t concern their earnings? Why is Swiss Bank trying to lose its premium customers? Why is the National governing party scared of the man without a gun, while they are the ones who have been elected by majority in this billion plus populated country, knowing their predecessors were not far behind in the league of extraordinary conman? What are the rucksacks carrying students jumping into this bandwagon, rather than their school buses?

  An interesting reason one of the man, I met during the Anna National Holiday was, “Someday I could proudly convey to my grandkids that I too stood by Anna against corruption”.  Though it did sound good to me when I first heard it, but soon I started pondering that how far a proud issue, like his, is justified for bringing the productivity of a nation to halt? “Yes, I am against corruption”. Never had I seen my nation so united, but at the same time, it was one of the most chaotic times that shall go down in our history. Yet again the use of the word “chaotic”, because I couldn’t distinguish among the genuine supporters and the class bunkers. Another concern that rose in my conscience was whether my countrymen were being led in the correct direction or not, since many among those whom I spoke to seemed to have interpreted this very movement in their own context, without even bothering to read the bill being proposed by Anna! I do like Anna for standing for his belief in his step for uprooting corruption, but at the same time many of his supporters disgusted me for not even thinking whether what they are shouting the slogans for is right or not! 

  As I tried to understand this confused lot, I understood a divide in our society and a segment in particular to which many of these people belong. The rich, be it entrepreneurs, politicians or celebrities, get noticed. They are strong and well connected, but still play on a diplomatic stance; they never jeopardize their status by fighting face to face for any social cause. While the poor, who have lost their stand somewhere in their desperate act of making the ends meet. Neither are they noticed, neither are they up for a fight, all they do is to try and make it to like and struggle for existence for yet another day. They have accepted and given it up to the attempt to rectify things or make it right. In between these accepted strong and the satisfied weak, is the ever restless middle class man. For long we have the word “middle” has been used as a synonym to mediocre. Why? Well, that’s what a middle class man has been. He lives to fight an everyday battle to cut through the clutches of a mediocrity and join the elite club, but at the same time plays it safe for the fear of losing it to the money crisis which may force him down to poverty. He aspires, but can’t act since he is afraid. He awaits a representative, a leader, to come and breaks the shackles of his misery and lead him to the “as imagined” good life. He hustles every moment, while the strong survives and the weak is suppressed, because of fear and inability to stand apart. These are the people who, given a dream, would rise up for anything, unfortunately, many without understanding how, because their life is a chaos and thus, is the birth of the word “chaotic man”.

 Well, as we know, chaos cannot be attributed to a single factor or fact, but if we do connect it, it solves the chaos! We, the middle class are so busy juggling the act to continue our survival that we barely stop to think about solving the chaos which has entangled us for generations. When Anna came and brought us out of our homes, we realized how we too can make a difference. Now here comes the point of bridging the gap in the society. We have so far associated ourselves with mediocrity and have been identified as a confused lot of the major chunk of our billion plus population, but we have never reached out to solve anything. But just give it a thought; we are the ones in between the two extreme ends of our society. We have been flipping the coin ever since and have seen both sides of it on numerous occasions.
Since my Grand ma’s bed time stories, to today’s headlines, I have found examples of how there has been a strong, a weak and a “middle” man, the “chaotic” man. Though never referred by the same word, but there has always been an intermediary, someone who shares the characteristics of both.  For example, during Paleolithic ages, the physical strength was the wealth, the strong was important, the weak were eliminated, but there were the ones in between, who were involved in other works, but were not considered important, but at some point of history came someone with brains, and history started changing. India’s struggle for freedom too, there were the mighty British, the defeated Sultanate and the commoners, among whom rose the likes of Gandhi and Bose who, who stood up for the cause and pummel the Empire till they were back on their ships to the Great Britain. But how long will the middle man wait for someone among themselves to stand and inspire? Why can’t every “chaotic man” stand for himself? Why does the Middle man still wait, rather than acting? And as I find my answers in the history, I bring some order to the understanding of “chaotic man”, as I see him repeating the same “wait and watch” protocol. As I answer these questions, my quest for solving the chaos comes to a full circle, as I wait for another Gandhi or Anna to come and wake me up.  

(WITH INPUTS FROM YOGI)

Thursday, 21 July 2011

THE LAST COFFEE…….


Today as I bid farewell to Trichy, after five years of extreme hatred and dislike for the city, I sit down with Jiten Da, the first Architecture student whom I met in the campus and thus my oldest friend in the college, to walk down the memory lane with what I hear to be the best coffee in the town. I have completed my course and am about to leave the city, probably (and if God blesses me, definitely), forever. Over the last five years, there has not been a single offensive word, in the Hindi and English dictionary combined, that I have known and not used it to describe Trichy.
I still remember coming to my college the first time when I was abandoned by the Rockfort Express at 5 in the morning on the third station in the Trichy district itself, called Tiruchchirappalli junction. The name itself took 10 minutes of my useless life’s time to understand. Anyways, I did recheck with my railway ticket to make sure if I have got down at the right place. Anyways, the disappointment did continue when I realized I was at the right place. The things didn’t get any better as the day progressed. It was a suttam(pure) Tamil dominion. The bus boards were in an illegible script and it was with the help of a polite gentleman that I boarded a bus towards hell, read NIT Trichy. It took me one hour, yes you read it right, one bloody hour to reach my destination, within which I got up several times to make sure with the conductor if I was in the correct bus or to give a 3 person seat to a single lady who would look me down if I try to sit next to her, hinting that I was an arrogant and manner less North India. Just as my frustration was about to reach its limit, I was called upon by the conductor who repeatedly screamed at me…..REC…. REC….. so? What was I suppose to do? Why the hell should I get down here?  I paid for a ticked to get down at NIT! May be it’s because I just paid 4 rupee 50 paise, that he is not ready to take me to my destination. But before my brain could find any more ridiculous reasons, I saw a board over the entrance of an enormous estate which said “National Institute of Technology, Tiruchirappalli” and I got down. My first observation about the place was, that the spelling of Tiruchirappalli was different from what it was at the station, which read “Tiruchchirappalli”, but after all, it didn’t matter, however you may spell, hell is helllll…..
Being born and brought up in Gujarat, the city seemed quite cruel to me. The city spoke a language that I didn’t understand, it ate food that I disliked, my college was accessible only by buses which usually didn’t stop in front of my college gate and the city lacked basic amenities for young people (i.e. KFC, McDonalds and CCD). I was surprised to know that there was a Mc. Donald road in Trichy, but not a Mc. Donald restaurant. The songs that were played in buses were loud and outrageous, friendly conversations of people sounded like some heated argument, the roads in the evening were crowded with drunkards who created nuisance every now and then, and you were offered a ladies blouse when you ask for a jacket! I just couldn’t imagine myself liking this place even if I was forced to spend my lifetime here. It was like a five year prison sentence for me, for not being at my best behavior at home. I was the prisoner who was isolated by the local people for not wearing a wastie over my shorts and speaking English, which I assumed the British people might have taught the local junta.
By this time, my first cup ofcoffee was over and I found myself being stared by the people around me. Jiten Da, who was quiet all this time, just smiled back at me after a 10 minute long “I hate Trichy” monologue. His smile and the filter coffee just reminded me of how I have changed over these past five years and the person cursing Trichy is the Rachit five years ago. His smile just reminded me that today, most of the songs I listen to are Tamil, the movies I watch are generally Tamil, the food I like is Tamil, the waistie I bought for myself is Tamil, most of my friends are Tamil, the filter coffee which I ordered once again is Tamil and I have to accept that I have been Tambified! Yes, I am no more the complaining Gujju that I was the first time I came here. Trichy accepted me and made me one of its own….. Who, other than Jiten Da, my oldest friend in college, could have reminded me that I am no more the same guy who met him on the first day of college? His smile did the trick and by the time my third cup of coffee was over, my train had arrived.
I dumped the luggage under my seat, went out to a stall and said “anna, urr tanni bottle venum” for the last time. As the train started moving, I waved Jiten Da and shed a tear for Trichy, for the first and the last time.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

CHAI at CHARMINAR



  Struggling through the old city area of Hyderabad, I reached a point where I felt the whole of Hyderabad coming all together upon me..... the chit chat of local people in Hyderabadi Hindi coupled with the shrieking hawkers with a hint of  whispers by awestruck tourists create the perfect background score for this unique experience..... and just when I started thinking that I have seen it all, I saw the monumental Charminar standing in front of me. Every step I took towards it imbibed me all the more into its charm. And just as I reached this whole new world, the speakers started roaring "allah ho akhbar.....". Suddenly the entire place turned solemn and all I could see was the Charminar and the Mecca Masjid.
  
  As I walked ahead towards it, a distinct fragrance attracted me to one of the tea joints next to Charminar. Well, sipping Irani tea next to Charminar may not be a dream to any ordinary person, but once you have done it, your senses will keep reminding you to do it again and again. The haunting aroma of the badi patti blended with the amazing flavor of chotti patti seduced my taste buds in such a way that calling back miyan for another cup became formidable. Just as I kept piling empty tea cups on my table and crush the cigarette butt on the floor, oh yes you can smoke here without eyebrows being raised at you, I saw the antique clock embedded on the Charminar and as I kept staring at it, I eventually reached a different era. Sitting with my close friends, as the tea kept flowing, the conversations got endless and blame it on the Irani Chai, I just poured my heart out. My brain soothes, my body relaxes, my problems find solution and suddenly I forgot all the pain I had taken to reach this place, as I cherished every sip of this amazing tea.

  But here, it was not just the tea or the Charminar; it was the ambiance, the surrounding, the shining pearls, the fragrance of unique perfumes, the dimly lit endless corridors of the bazaar which blend among themselves to give me this unforgettable experience. Though all the flashy cafes claim that a lot can happen over a cup of coffee, the Irani chai at Charminar does deliver.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

    
    Well, food has always been the basic need of a human being. But today, the contemporary restaurateurs have added a tablespoon of luxury and a hint of creativity all over it. This weekend of mine was completely dedicated to the most important thing in life called "FOOD". 
    Well, first let me take you to Indira Nagar, 100ft road, destination: Barbecue Nation. The restaurant was a 4 floor filled with mouthwatering delicacies. A barbecue set on your very own table, your options and your wish over how to treat your taste buds! This restaurant, i must say before i go ahead, is worth the money only and only if you don't consider eating meat a sin or are not a fan of PETA supporting Pamela Anderson, else i must tell you, you are at the wrong place buddy! Anyways, confirming that you enjoy the idea of a sumptuous non vegetarian meal, let me move ahead. Well, this is the only restaurant I have seen so far which respects a hogger. The flag on the table which says "kindly turn down to discontinue starters" takes out the devil in u and even the most tidy eater couldn't resist himself from getting his hands down and dirty for the business since it invokes a challenge which inspires you to keep it going and interestingly, the staff is also supportive in your endeavor to win the contest...... man versus food at its best!The never ending starters and mouth watering delicacies kept me and my friend Akshat, a fellow food lover, going on till our stomach gave up. But hey, it ain't over yet..... desserts are still to be enjoyed! As we walked towards the dessert counter with great difficulty we realized something has to be done to create that extra bit of space in our stomach, and that is when the oldest trick in the book worked..... loosen up your belt! And hence began our final course of meal, before the bill was presented on our table and let me confess, the bill at that moment didn't hurt us in the least bit, as we knew, every penny we spend is worth it.
   After missing the next 3 meals in fear that my belly might give up, I was up again, this time a Portuguese treat awaited me. Brigade Road in Bangalore, apart from the famous brands is also the house for Nando's. Its a chain of restaurant which originated in Johannesburg and serves Mozambique dishes with Portuguese influence. They are also suppose to be the inventor of authentic sauces which are available in 4 different flavors made out of peri peri, a chilli indigenous to Africa. I was new to such kind of food and even though I was initially disappointed with the price, the food didn't let me down and I was a happy man once I took the first bite of the beautiful looking burger. The taste was something I had never experienced before and the dressing was something I had never seen before. The staff treats you like the king of Mozambique and the restaurant ambiance makes the experience all the more unforgettable. Once I loosened up my pocket and walked out back on the brigade road, I wasn't the same person I was when I came to Bangalore the previous day. I was the lucky guy who had just enjoyed the food fiesta at Bangalore.
   Even though now I am back in Trichy and have resumed my usual Idly-Dosa meal, the sweet taste of Nando's and Barbeque Nation still haunts me on the hungry evenings. If you have money, appetite for some distinct flavors and a company like Akshat, I think you should never miss the Food Fiesta at Bangalore.
 

   

Saturday, 28 May 2011



Today the term modern is associated with the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the way we speak and so on. But, somewhere it has lost its association with thinking and philosophies. We learned the way of expressing them, but have forgotten how to understand and evolve them.

I believe that being modern is not about wearing inadequate clothes or eating food in restaurant that doesn’t belong to our region and bowel system, or speaking foreign languages in weird accent. Modernity lies in the progressive thinking we hold and believe in. Modernity lies in understanding our history to shape our future. Our forefathers fought for freedom, the freedom to express ourselves, explore ourselves, develop ourselves and think ourselves to decide our destiny. But somewhere their sacrifice has gone in vain as the freedom they fetched us; we used it to be the slaves of the ideologies of our previous rulers.
We follow the west, but we often forget we belong to east. Our climate is different, our conditions are different, our language is different and our ideas are different. Then why should we follow them? I don’t believe in criticizing the west for imposing themselves upon us, all I wish is to urge the people to think before following.  Our forefathers have evolved the thoughts and culture so well that they still hold apt and strong. Our food, houses, communities, clothes and lifestyle have not just been imitated; they have been evolved in such a way that they suit our requirements in the conditions we live in.
My idea of writing the words above is not to demean the west or stop ourselves from mingling with the world; but to think before following and evolving things that would benefit our future generations. It is to ignite the spark in ourselves to think, to be progressive thinkers. Let us be modern enough to define our future. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

TUNE IN TO THIRUVAIYARU


I am neither a music buff nor a great fan of Classical music. As of Carnatic music, all I know is from my Class 6 CBSE text book, which said that Carnatic music is a form of Classical music played in southern part of India, especially Tamil Nadu. Still, I hop into a bus from Trichy to Tanjore, with a bunch of my friends to attend Shri Thiyaga Brahma Mahotsava Sabha, a Carnatic music fest in Thiruvaiyaru, near Tanjore.
The Aradhna is a ten day event, set in front of Shri Thiyagarajar Samadhi on the bank of river Cauvery in a small town called Thiruvaiyaru. This Carnatic Music festival attracts Carnatic singers, musicians and audience, belonging to all age groups, from all around the globe, especially Tamil Nadu.
As I start my journey, I don’t know what is attracting me to that place…… may be it is the craving for a new experience or something to write about or may be because my friends were making fun of the fact that I am going to attend a Carnatic music festival!  As of now, I am enjoying a comfortable bus journey in cool cloudy weather and the recently constructed Trichy Tanjore Highway. As we take a break at Tanjore to change bus, a crisp dosa and strong filter coffee welcomes us. Now with our enthusiasm fuelled with food, we proceed towards Ariyalur, on the way to which lies the town, Thiruvaiyaru.
As we walk towards the venue from the Thiruvaiyaru bus stand, loudspeakers playing the compositions being played at the Aradhna intimate us that we are going on the right way. Within no time we reach the Thiyagaraja Samadhi. The mandapam is covered with a canvas canopy, decorated with colorful frills on the inside. At one end of it is the Thiyagaraja Samadhi and on the other end is a stage, divided in two parts with a group of singers and musicians on each of them, playing alternately. I am told that a Carnatic Music concert is called a Kacheri, and here, two Kacheri’s were going simultaneously.   
First I visit the Samadhi to pray and then settle myself in the Shri Thiyaga Brahma Mahotsava Sabha to enjoy the Aradhna. This Kacheri, in particular, is dedicated to the ‘kritis’ by Shri Thiyagarajar and most of them are in Telugu! As a clueless visitor belonging to Gujarat, sitting in Carnatic music concert in Tamil Nadu, listening to Telugu compositions…… I looked around to realize one interesting thing about this concert. This is one event which attracts crowd from far and near, striking the common chord among them…… Music! The crowd here was not Shaivite or Vaishnavite, but just music lovers. Amazing to see how Music crossed the barriers of Caste & Creed, Cults & Sects, Male & Female, Language & Dialects, to bring one and all together. Surprised with what I just realized, I look back at the stage with a whole new perspective to appreciate this very Music. To be truthful, I am now enjoying it. Contrary to the notion I had about Carnatic music being calm and solemn, it’s vibrant!  The orchestra comprises of Mrudangam, Violin, Ghatam (a pot), Tambura and Morsing. But, the most impressive part is the voice of the singers. A well controlled voice with pitch modulating with every word in a range I have never heard before. Just as the singers close their eyes and tap their palm on thighs, music rises and a melodious voice sets the ambience, which cannot be described in words. The only words which could describe my state right now are ‘spell bound’!
   Since its time for us to go back, we take a walk along the bank of Cauveri in shallow water before we leave the place. Though water wiped off the sand from my feet, I know nothing can wipe the memories of Thiruvaiyaru from my mind. For me, something so unique and amazing has never been seen or heard before.






Kacheri
Shri Thiyaga Brahma Mahotsava Sabha