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  • 11/11/17--21:54: Students steal the spotlight
  • The weekend saw a display of talent and creativity as college students battled it out at the auditions for the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival 2017. Held at Rangoli Metro Art Centre, MG Road, teams from St Teresas College for Women, Mount Carmel College and Indian Institute of Science (on the first day), and St Josephs College for Commerce, Christ University and CMR School of Legal Studies (on the second day), showcased a variety of themes and concepts on stage.

    The jury, which comprised of Salmin Sheriff, Anmol Vellani and Anitha Mithra, gave their feedback to individual teams at the end of each day. "The good thing was that all the students attempted theatre, though it will be good if they hone their craft. A festival like this is a good chance for students to perform as well as learn about the other aspects like light, sound, costume, sets, and so on," said Salmin.

    "I was very happy to see the amount of enthusiasm and work the students had put in. The students only had two weeks to rehearse but their interest and enthusiasm shone through," added Anitha.

    "It was a mixed bag because sometimes the teams inexperience was evident. Despite that, they managed to put up a good show," opined Anmol, who advised the participants to watch professional productions. He also prompted them to look at meaningful plays, instead of falling into the trap of relevance and topicality.

    Mount Carmel College third year student Preethi Sagar, who was a part of the in-house theatre troupe Stage Craft Productions, said, "We had to portray the good, bad and ugly experiences in an actors life. It was a challenge for us to showcase the various emotions but we enjoyed the experience."

    Sahana Venkatesh, a second year student of Mount Carmel College, said, "The comments from the judges were indeed encouraging. The critical remarks will help better our performances and strengthen our skills."

    The Indian Institute of Science theatre troupe, called Rang Manch, staged All by Myself by Robert Scott. PhD student Shankar R, the director, said "We enjoyed working on this production and this is the first time that we are staging it outside our campus. The comments and observations from the judges will definitely help better the product."

    Reshma Khan, lecturer, St Teresas Degree College For Women, said "The theatre festival will provide encouragement and exposure to students to showcase their talent and be recognised on a bigger platform."

    Christ University student Shivangi Nigam, who is pursuing BA in performing arts, literature and psychology, said, "For us, the takeaway from the judges observations was that what we are doing is right. It made us believe in ourselves. We have been doing theatre for the past two years but today we felt more grounded and humble about the art that we do."

    First year BBA student Abhishek, from St Josephs College of Commerce, opined that it was a great experience for him and others like him. "For students like us, who dont have a background in theatre, the feedback will enable us to rectify our mistakes.

    The names of the top three contenders will be announced on November 16 on They will get a chance to perform on December 4 at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore as part of the Deccan Herald Theatre Festival 2017.

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  • 11/11/17--21:54: Even in the odds
  • With the State Government mulling over the implementation of the odd-even formula to avoid a Delhi-like situation, some Bengalureans voice out their opinion on the proposal.

    Nagaraj M

    R&D engineer

    "It is a general notion that only big truck and four-wheelers emit the maximum smoke and cause air pollution. But in reality, two-wheelers are the most emission producers. Rather than the odd-even formula, I feel a ban on commercial vehicles which are more than 10 years old should be taken as a step to reduce air pollution. Moreover, vehicles that run on diesel cause a lot of pollution too. Cab or truck drivers tend to drive roughly which damages the vehicle causing them to emit more smoke. If the government is planning to bring this scheme to the city, they must make sure that the alternate way -- that is the connectivity of the public transport -- has to be worked on. Most people dont like taking the public transport, so, the first step that has to be taken is to change the mindset of people towards these available facilities."

    Poornima Kannan, Nature enthusiast

    "The odd-even formula makes sense considering the present situation of the city. People will be consciously aware of their impact on the environment. This formula is definitely going to be a good awareness drive among people, and they perhaps will take this social responsibility in their stride. There are many options like carpooling, walking or even cycling, people just need to make a conscious effort. With the odd-even formula, if people start using their vehicle every alternate day, it can turn into a good habit."

    Amit Mazumdar,

    Technical architect

    "I think the population in Delhi is high compared to Bengaluru. I am not sure if this plan will work here. It might rather cause inconvenience to people especially in times of emergencies. I am with this formula considering the government has an alternate plan for all the odd plate vehicles. The odd-even formula will solve the traffic woes but the public has to be convinced first. I believe that people have to be facilitated by an alternative."

    Malini Rao, Doctor

    "I would definitely recommend that Bengaluru go ahead with the odd-even formula. It will help us a lot in cutting down the level of pollution in the long run. I drive to work and if my vehicle falls under the odd-category, I am open to travelling by buses or Metros or even carpool. I come across a lot of cases of bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Its because of the pollution and the harmful air that everyone is breathing."

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  • 11/11/17--21:56: On the green route
  • On the green route

    Adventurous souls in the city have often taken varied routes to explore nature. The latest interest among the community of cyclists is cycle tourism.

    Be it cycling an entire stretch or transporting the cycle to the spot from where the journey starts,
    observing scenic locales on their cycling is a soulful experience for many.

    Businessman Chethan Ram has been cycling for a while and says such tours are the best way to burn calories while reconnecting with nature. "Burning calories while enjoying movie-like locations is a blessing.
    Driving a vehicle in and around the city can be tiring. Cycling cuts the monotony," he says.

    Chethan organises rides with groups to places like Coorg, Chikkamagaluru and Sakleshpur. He says that it is interesting to experience climatic variations on a cycle. "It can be quite refreshing," he adds.

    Observing the smallest details of nature en route can be a life-changing ride, which is one of the biggest aims of cycle tourism, notes civil engineer Kiran Kumar Raju.

    "Ive cycled to places like Ooty, Shimla and Kerala. One explores a place very differently on a car or bike compared to a cycle. You concentrate more on the route and observe minute details," he adds.

    He adds that taking part in a group activity like the Tour of Nilgiris event helps one plan solo trips better.

    "It will be my third time at the Tour of Nilgiris 2017. Its a great window for newbies to explore places. Events like this teach one about safety parameters like wearing a helmet, gloves, glasses, shoes and keeping items for hydration and nutrition handy," adds Kiran.

    IT professional Venkateswara Rao Navanasi feels that cycling outside the city opens up one to varied experiences. "I have done solo trips and also travelled with friends. I have cycled at places like Madikere and Sultan Bathery. Away from the humdrum life of the city, such trips work as a great stressbuster and are a fun way of exploring a place," he says.

    From the physical activity to mental relaxation, touring on cycles are a great window to the world, adds Venkateswara.

    Seen as a peaceful way of travelling, project lead Rishyashringa J S feels that cycle touring has picked up more as it is environmental-friendly as well as a natural form of exercising.
    "Coupling fitness with nature is a satisfying experience. Instead of spending a weekend
    in the city battling the traffic, touring through natural spots is a great way to rejuvenate oneself," he adds.

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  • 11/11/17--21:56: Blooming in Bollywood
  • Actor Kriti Kharbanda has had more than two releases in Bollywood but she feels that her latest release, Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana has brought out the best in her.
    It is the hard-hitting script, gripping narrative and her unique role that made her accept the project. The opportunity to work with Rajkummar Rao also added to the excitement of it all. In an interview with Nina C George, Kriti talks about her role and her future plans.

    How do you feel after the release of Shaadi Mein Zaroor Aana?

    I have always wanted to work on a project, where I am not just cast for a pretty face. I have found what I was looking for in this project. I am proud of my work and I believe that I have pushed my limits as an actor and done well.

    Describe your character.

    I play the character of Aarti Shukla. I portray Aarti when she was 21 and later at 26. The two characters are dramatically different. There were intense scenes, and I felt one with the character.

    Was it difficult to let go off Aarti?

    It is hard for me to get over my character. I didnt have to use glycerine because I could feel every single emotion that my character went through.

    How was it working with Rajkummar Rao?

    I knew that I had to challenge myself and work really hard to match the skills of Rajkummar Rao. He is a brilliant actor and has immense respect and regard for his co-stars.

    Have you ever felt the pressure to prove yourself?

    Yes, I feel the pressure all the time. There are times when some situations and events have taken a toll on me. But I have a great support system in my parents and that has helped me tide over tough times.

    How is it to work with Dharmendra in Yamla Pagla Deewana Phir Se?

    It is an honour to work with him. He calls me Kharbanda and I find that really cute (laughs).

    An actor you want to work with…

    I may sound selfish when I say this but I want to work with Ranbir Kapoor, Ranveer Singh and Varun Dhawan because I find them extremely talented and versatile.

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  • 11/11/17--21:58: Inspired by a rich era
  • After a few years of working as a freelancer and having assisted others, designer Anita Ojha finally wanted to start something on her own.
    Though she started her career with the label Nityaa Designs, her idea to celebrate feminity and elegance of an Indian woman led to what is known as AO. She now incorporates her forte which is bridal wear and embroideries through this label.

    In a conversation with Surupasree Sarmmah, the young designer talks about her father being her inspiration and more.

    How did fashion become a career choice for you?

    The inspiration comes from my dad. When I was a child, he used to get me the most trendy clothes and shoes. From latest denim skirts to the newest prints, my closet had some of the most stylish outfits. He was the one who decided my wardrobe and I used to wait eagerly for whats going to be the next addition.

    How did your parents react when you told them that this is what you want to do?

    Well, they were a bit reluctant initially, thinking of all the late nights this profession would demand from me and how the industry absorbs people into it. However they agreed, seeing how good I am at my work and my passion towards this job. More so, because they knew that I couldnt do anything except this. So, they gave up on me, literally (laughs)!

    Tell us about your latest collection...

    My latest collection is a bridal line inspired by the Mughal gardens. Different motifs here like flowers, prints and even the colours have a Mughal influence. The colours used are bright that depict a flower garden.

    What inspired you to go ahead with this idea?

    This era was so rich in its art and creativity. Every time I read or see images from this period, I am mesmerised. I always wanted to incorporate it into my collections some or the other way. And there could not be any better collection than a bridal one.

    Three pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe...

    A little black dress, a good pair of denim and a kurta that brightens out an individuals silhouette.

    A celebrity you would like to work with...

    Definitely, Deepika Padukone. The way she carries off any style with grace is a treat to the eyes.

    How have you evolved as a designer over the years?

    It has been four years for me in the industry and over the years, I have only become more aware as a designer. Today, I keep my customers point of view in mind and what they like.

    Your current fashion obsession...

    Bell sleeves.

    A television show that showed the most fashionable clothes?

    Gossip Girls.

    Your favourite fashion quote...

    "A girl should be two things - classy and fabulous" by Coco Chanel.

    Heels or flats?

    I like being comfortable, so its definitely flats.

    Any word of advice for aspiring designers...

    Follow your heart. As far as creativity is concerned, do what you think will stand out.

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  • 11/11/17--21:58: Makeover moment
  • Bengalureans have witnessed the vicissitudes of change that Church Street has undergone through decades. Now they cant wait to see the new changes on the street which is one of the favourite hangouts of tourists, families and youngsters. The latest attraction is the designer cobblestones that are being laid. Youngsters clicking selfies on the finished stretches are a common sight now.

    Investment banker Lavanya RC says "The new design is sure to attract more tourists. Church Street is known for its charm and people will always be drawn to this side of town."
    Stock controller Aishwarya G S, who lives in Indiranagar, is happy that Church Street is wearing a sleek look now. "A lot of effort has gone into making this road look good. I hope the authorities will take similar efforts to beautify the other roads in the city as well," she says.

    This stretch is popular with youngsters who are regulars at most of the restaurants and pubs.
    College student Dhananjaya Naresh says that she often hangs out on Church Street with her friends. "Earlier, Church Street had broken sidewalks and the roads were unmotorable. Now, the street looks good. There were times when this stretch used to stink because of clogged drains. That stench is no longer there," says Dhananjaya.

    The street now has a definite character and identity, feels A student of Baldwin Womens Methodist College, Daneta says, "The first place I think of when I am hungry is Church Street. The unkempt look has given way to a more sophisticated one now. I now come here more often than I used to."

    Church Street is also popular with foreigners. Stuart Lawson, who works for the IT wing of Shell, has been visiting India quite often for work purposes. He too has observed the changes.

    "I have visited Church Street several times before but it has never looked as neat as it does now. A few of my favourite restaurants are on this street and I always go there when I am in Bengaluru," says Stuart. He also points out the fact that instead of good roads and parks, its buildings that are coming up more and more in the city. "The challenge now is to streamline traffic and make this road a more pedestrian-friendly one," he adds.

    While the makeover is a welcome one, some Bengalureans like Kumar S, an employee with Air Asia, wonders if the road will be maintained well in the days to come. "The road has become narrow after the makeover. Unless people maintain lane discipline, it is difficult for vehicles to move freely," says Kumar.

    Drawing a comparison to roads abroad, Kumar says, "The roads abroad are cleaned very often and you wouldnt find a single piece of paper thrown around. Here, people dump garbage on the roads and Church Street is no exception. I hope people actively cooperate in keeping the city clean."

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    Acting is a dream come true

    Sometimes actor Ashika Somashekar finds it difficult to believe that it is all not a dream.
    The fourth-year engineering student who always wanted to be an actor often breaks into a smile when she thinks of the movie Curious Cases of Yedebadita, where she will be portraying a village
    belle. In an interview with Tini Sara Anien, the actor talks about her journey so far.

    What triggered an interest in acting?

    I am a part of the Bengaluru Theatre Ensemble for the last one-and-a-half years and I have always loved acting. Whenever I would see someone on TV, I would imagine myself as that person and think about how I would react in the same scene. Acting is a dream come true.

    Did you have any apprehensions about acting?

    There was a lot of chaos in my head. Firstly, I had to convince my parents a lot. I was also initially worried as there was no one from my family in the film fraternity. But when I realised that acting is what I really wanted to do, everything seemed fine.

    How did Curious Cases of Yedebadita come your way?

    I saw a post on Facebook which was calling for auditions. I sent in my portfolio, I was shortlisted and thankfully got selected.

    How did you feel then?

    I was very composed when I was in front of the director Ashwin Rao Pallaki and the team but I was jumping inside my head. I was excited and I dont think any amount of words will be able to explain the feeling.

    The first schedule of the movie is over. How was the experience?

    I play a village belle called Sangeetha. I am attached to all my scenes and songs. Everything is so dear to me. I feel grateful for everything.

    How close are you to your role?

    I am nothing like Sangeetha. She is a very subtle person while I am bubbly and lively. Enacting someone whose characteristics are nothing like mine, was quite challenging. Pushing oneself beyond ones comfort zone is what acting is all about.

    Was it fun being on the sets of Curious...?

    I couldnt ask for more. Its like being with a bunch of friends. I have learnt so much on the sets.

    An incident from the sets that you wont forget...

    We had fun every day. A scary incident that happened when we were shooting at Kudremukh was that there were a lot of leeches there. I started crying. It was really bad.

    The different lessons youve learnt...

    I know a lot more about the nuances of acting and filmmaking now than I used to. I absorb things quickly. The homework one should do, handling that chaos on the sets and not judging a movie by just what is seen finally on screen; I realised it all on the sets of this movie.

    Where do you feel you will be 10 years from now?

    I dont want to be remembered just as a heroine but as a good actor.

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    The opportunity to work in India and understand the culture is what prompted Elena Gil from Malaga, Spain to move to Bengaluru four years ago. She first came to Anantapur in 2013 and worked with an NGO which does Spanish translation of Telugu literature. Her stint in Anantapur gave her a chance to travel and explore the Southern part of the country. The moment she reached Bengaluru, she fell in love with the place.

    Soon after she returned to Malaga, she applied for a job here. Fortunately, she managed to find what she was looking for at the Centre for Global Languages at Bangalore University.
    Looking back now, Elena feels that she couldnt have made a better decision. Her work involves teaching Spanish to students and working professionals here.

    "There are a lot of IT companies which prefer to hire people who are fluent in foreign languages. Many youngsters come to learn to speak foreign languages. Spanish is one of them," she says. "The students here are very eager to learn. I dont find this kind of openness and warmth with the students back in Spain," adds Elena.

    She says that she adjusted to the city sooner than she thought she would. "Settling down here was not difficult at all because I had stayed here many times before I decided to make this my home. Also, thanks to the large circle of friends, I managed to make myself at home very soon," she says.

    She also found the perfect partner in Upal Basu, an architect by profession. "Upal and I were introduced to each other through common friends. We began as friends but we were so comfortable in each others company that we decided to add more meaning to our friendship," she says. Elena and Upal hope to tie the knot soon.

    "The two families have met and our parents are happy for us. We havent fixed a wedding date as of now," she says. Elena is also impressed with the citys gourmet culture. "I have tasted every possible cuisine here. Be it the local dishes, Bengali or Kerala cuisine, I love them all and I have my favourites. I have also learnt how to make palak paneer and rotis. I want to first learn how to make the smaller and less complicated Indian items and later learn the tougher ones," she laughs.

    She also says that she has adjusted to the spicy food here. "After eating Indian food, I wonder why the food back home is so bland. I have experimented a great deal with Indian dishes and love cooking it as well although my rotis take longer than usual," she says.

    Travelling is another favourite pastime of hers. She travels alone and with a large group of friends. "I have visited Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Uttarakhand. I also visited Uttarkashi where I underwent training to become a yoga teacher. I used to practise yoga back home and I wanted to get a deeper understanding of it here," she says.

    "Every corner of the country has a different ethos and character. I enjoyed my stay in
    Kerala and relished the local dishes there. The fish fry and the red fish curry being my favourites," she adds.

    Her other hobbies include reading and gardening. "I am not a party person. I would rather
    settle down with a book or do a bit of gardening whenever I am free. I also have a large collection of books based on Indian mythology," adds Elena.

    She also recently developed an interest in Bharatanatyam and has been learning from one of them. "I have always wanted to learn an Indian classical dance form. I found an opportunity when I discovered that one of my students is a trained classical dancer. I teach her Spanish and she, in turn, teaches me Bharatanatyam. I find it a very beautiful and sophisticated dance form," she says.

    As far as travelling in the city is concerned she says, "I travel by auto and refuse to pay a rupee more than what is shown on the meter. I dont give in to the auto drivers demand to pay excess fare," she signs off.

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    The Prathyarpana Foundation founded in memory of L.S. Narayana Swamy Bhagavathar and Prof. H.V. Krishna Murthy conducts cultural programmes in collaboration with the Vijaya College of Music every year and donates fund to the needy social organisations. On Friday as well, the Foundation presented donations for few institutions at the ADA Ranga Mandira.

    It opened with a Choral music by the students of Vijaya College of Music. They had chosen Nottuswara compositions of Muthuswamy Dikshitar, in different ragas of the Shankarabharana scale. A number of colourful ragas with Sanskrit lyrics on different Gods - were quite attractive. Though they were all tiny pieces,
    pleased with the sweet melody. Little more than one hundred students, accompanied by flute, violin, mridanga and khanjari, sang in unison.
    Kudos to Bhargavi H.K. Venkataram, the young vocalist, for conducting the choir successfully.


    Gita Govinda of Jayadeva, is one of the most popular lyrics, both in music and dance. It is believed that Jayadeva himself sang the hymns, while his wife Padmavati danced to them in the Jagannath Temple of Puri. Saralaya Sisters - Kavitha and Triveni Saralaya, presented few selected verses of Geeta Govinda accompanied by violin, mridanga and ghata. They opened the programme with verses on Jayadeva in the raga Purvi Kalyani. Jaya Jagadeesha Hare (in the raga Naata), Lalitha Lavanya (Vasantha), the popular one Rathi Sukha Saare in Sindhubhairavi etc.etc. The lyrics in the ragas Nadanamakriya, Kharaharapriya, Mukhari, Madhyamavathi and Shudha Saranga -pleased the gathering. With their expertise and pleasing raga and melodious tuning, Saralaya Sisters captured the audience. Colourful photos - slides in the background - also suited and added to the impact.


    Lakshmi Gopalaswamy, a well-known dancer, presented her pet theme, slightly edited version of compositions of Mysore composers, from glimpses of Mysore Palace. A swarajathi in the raga Kambodhi gave her programme a pleasant start and was followed by well-woven jathies. The familiar Kamatch varna Mathe of Dr L. Muthaiah Bhagavathar was visually pleasing with good footwork and expressive Abhinaya. A Kannada jawali in the raga Kalyani and the dignified thillana - both were lively and performed with grace.


    Curtains came down on this years K.K. Murthy Memorial Music Festival with a flute recital on Sunday evening. After receiving the Chowdaiah Award of Academy of Music, Praveen Godkhindi, popular music composer and director, gave a Hindustani flute recital.
    With a master like Praveen Godkhindi handling raga Shudda Kalyan the raga really sparkled and glistened on flute. Starting from the Mandra Sthayee slowly, the raga came out with a haunting melody of infinite loveliness. Two compositions - vilambith eka thal and drut teen thal, swayed the entire audience, gathered in good number. A thumri dhun in Misra Kamach was also appealing. Again rag Bagesri was presented with great charm and finesse. Pandit Shubhankar Banerjee played tabla with good understanding, enhancing the impact of the flute.

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  • 11/03/17--22:58: A day with dolphins
  • Its 9 am and the Mauritian jetty we are standing at is slowly coming to life. The sun is out, sunshine beautifully bouncing off the waters of the Indian Ocean. Boats, both big and small, are being readied for the day. Having woken up at six in the morning, we haven driven some 70-odd km through some sleepy villages, the capital city of Port Louis, salt fields, the Black River National Park and luxurious resorts to reach the Tamarin Bay jetty, from where we would be whisked off on a day-long dolphin cruise.

    One of the major attractions for both Mauritians and non-Mauritians, dolphin cruises are perfect to pencil into your Sunday calendar. Such cruises generally offer dolphin-watching opportunities (obviously), some snorkelling time, a lunch out on the sea, a visit to an island, and front-row views to the oceanic landscape of this stunning island nation.

    Bruno, our catamaran skipper, starts off by giving us some basic safety instructions, after which we set sail for the open water. Pretty soon, the jetty is but a distant dot in the landscape. We pass by mountains and beaches that seem to have materialised out of a picture postcard. Behind us, on our left, we are told to look at the grand Le Morne Mountain, whose summit is a huge, square-shaped monolithic rock.

    Sitting pretty at the extreme south-western tip of Mauritius, this mountain has a sad history. In the 19th century, this mountain was a refuge for many runaway slaves. After the abolition of slavery in the country, when the police went to inform these slaves about their freedom, many slaves misunderstood their intention and jumped to their deaths. Today, the place is a World Heritage Centre and also a favourite spot of many hikers, and might also be home to a few ghosts of the past.

    Coming to the star attraction of our cruise, dolphins, we are told these aquatic mammals head to Tamarin Bay every morning to catch up on some sleep, and mating. Thats where we are headed, screams Bruno, over the blaring Mauritian music in the catamaran. As the sun climbs higher in the sky, the water turns turquoise green, and then a deep shade of navy blue.

    The water games

    Luck seems to be favouring us today: the weather is clear, the ocean calm, and in the distance, we hear dolphins splashing about in the water. Bruno informs us that the dolphins we see jumping out of the water are spinner dolphins. The dolphins put on quite a show for us: they leap out of the water, spin around and splash back into the blue, leaving us with dropped jaws and out of breath. Its a big pack, Bruno says, almost 100 to 300. As an acknowledgement of their playful antics, we collectively ooh and aah till the dolphins disappear deeper into the waters.

    At the catamaran, chilled rum cocktails flow freely and the music turns more upbeat. Our fellow cruise companions, comprising Indian honeymooners and a Mauritian family, ditch their seats for coveted spots closer to the water. The sun has risen higher in the sky and the water has magically turned crystal-clear, and sports the lightest shade of blue ever possible. With the wind in our hair and ocean air in our lungs, we sail further into the ocean to look for that perfect snorkelling spot. Finally, the catamaran slows down, and while the crew sets up a grill by the side, we get ready to meet and greet our oceanic friends. Wearing a life jacket and a snorkelling mask, I stand on the edge of our catamaran, ready to disappear into the blue beauty beneath me. My worried mother mouths words of caution and goes ballistic when a crewmate jokes about sharks swimming in the waters below. I dont know if its the utter serenity of my surroundings or my own fear, I can suddenly hear my own heart thud loudly. But whats a trip to Mauritius without a few splashes in the Indian Ocean? So, I take a deep breath, and leap into the air, screaming, before splashing into the cool waters below. I seem to go down for a while, deeper and deeper in the ocean, before rising up, a blob in the water. Bruno throws in a couple of bread pieces around us in the water, which lead an entire school of fishes to us.

    Soon, a call for lunch is made and we reluctantly swim back to our catamaran. Its almost noon and the ocean looks spectacularly blue. We are told we need to get into the smaller boat trailing behind our catamaran to go see the world-famous crystal rock of Mauritius.

    One of a kind

    Situated about 200 m from the shores of the biggest lagoon in the Southern Hemisphere, this crystal rock is a fossilised piece of coral reef that juts out of the water. It looks like a rock bouquet and can only be found in two other places of the world: Maldives and Seychelles. We circulate this chunky piece of rock in our small boat before getting off on Benetiers Island. Named after the clam-shell-shaped crystal rock, this island is perfect for an afternoon snooze. You can also pick up some souvenirs from the numerous surfboard stalls here. Ever tried tamarind ice-cream? You might just find it on this island.

    About 30 minutes later, we are back on our catamaran, on our journey back to the jetty and reality. We all are satiated and drowsy: you might wonder if its all those rum cocktails. But no, it was the delicious combination of water, land and air that make Mauritius a heady cocktail. And mind you, one sip of this natural concoction and you will get addicted. And suffer from a hangover that you cant shake off, even after going back home.

    Getting there: Almost all hotels will be able to hire taxis for you from your
    hotel to Tamarin Bay.

    What to do: You can book the full-day catamaran dolphin cruise from 9 am to 4 pm, which include a barbecue lunch and snacks. Or, you could go for the shorter, two-three-hour version in a speedboat, which will include breakfast and swimming with the dolphins.

    Book at least two days in advance as such cruises fill up quite fast. The simplest way to book is through your hotel.

    Cost: The price for these cruises usually ranges between Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,500.

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  • 11/03/17--23:20: A silver celebration
  • Once considered an aberrant child, Installation Art (IA) has become the boldest, most flamboyant arm of the Family of the Arts. Through this medium, artists have consistently pushed boundaries in an attempt to encourage societal soul-searching, and continue to be the strident, persistent voice of humanitys collective conscience. In that respect, IA is a chronicler of our times and of the rapidly changing face of our cities. Eminent Artist Shantamani Muddaiah puts it into perspective when she says that "Art articulates the democratic process and culture."

    "IA emerged in India in the early 1990s, and "within the first decade, the most contribution was from Bengaluru", says distinguished artist C F John. "A band of artists, schooled as they were in one particular form, were ready to look at art with an open mind, experiment and explore," explains renowned artist Raghavendra Rao.

    A definitive step forward was Cultural Spiral (1993), the artists communitys answer to the carnage of the Babri Masjid riots. This was probably the first time that a group of artists collaborated to create a single work of IA. But the one that had the most impact was Silence of Furies and Sorrows - Pages of a Burning City (1995), done in the aftermath of the debilitating communal violence in Bengaluru in 1994. Muddaiah reminisces on "the emotional necessity to address something immediate... using materials from the location of violence and the language of the violent space, to communicate." This, despite the fact that "there was no light, camera and media as seen today, as well as very little comfort of money either as support or as corruption. The spirit of togetherness and collaboration was our strength then," says John.

    Earth Work "A Time and Site Specific Art (1996) by Umesh Maddanahalli, Sthalapuranagalu (1999) curated by Pushpamala N, Sakshi Gudda Sakshi Gode (2001) by artist Sheela Gowda, and Walls of Memories "An Art Event of Unresolved Edges (2003) initiated by C F John were some of the prominent works of the first decade.

    Importance for a city

    Apart from being a reflection of our times, art also serves to educate and inspire. John best describes it when he says, "A new kind of creative alertness ferments within both the artist as well as the viewer... It is to creatively engage with our life situations and to open up a realm of perception both for the artist and the viewer..." By moving out of galleries and museums, artists are making art more accessible to the public. IA in particular is constantly in conversation with viewers, goading them to rethink, challenging their perception, and by virtue of its three-dimensionality and use of quotidian objects, making them an integral part of the artwork.

    Having said which, one might question the purpose or validity of a temporary art installation. "It is wrong to think that the prolonged physical existence guarantees its influence and presence in our minds/ hearts. On the contrary, it is often a fleeting sight or experience that stays within us for the whole of life, defining what we are," clarifies John Rao, cautions about "visual pollution" through Photoshop and DTP, which he says is "an example of the misuse of technology."

    "There is a misconception of what our culture is about and because of this art suffers badly," says Muddaiah. While technology and other fields have aspired to keep up with their contemporary counterparts, our concept of art, and in particular visual art, she says, is still rooted in 3,000 years ago. She excoriates our Culture Department for its concentrated focus on tourism, and berates the powers that be who consider visual art a "commodity" at 12% GST and art materials a "luxury" at 28% GST.

    Umesh Maddanahalli echoes her thoughts when he says that our Culture Department is more comfortable with tangible elements like dance and painting, and is "not open to the culture of imagination." He rues the fact that in our country, Culture and Science & Technology departments are independent entities, which makes it difficult for artists who wish to integrate both media.

    Having worked extensively abroad and in India, the lack of accessibility to good workspace and technology, to facilitate the creative process is a serious deficiency for Rao. Lack of a dedicated arts fund and transparency in public art funding by the government are other big hurdles. The fate of art and artists depends on the current incumbent of the ministerial chair at any given time, says Rao.

    Sense vs sensibility

    "The most common misconception of IA is its understanding for the common man, especially in our country," says young multidisciplinary artist Aishwaryan K. Visual art saved this youngster when his school teachers deemed him a "living failure." "As an artist I cannot force my thoughts/opinions on my audience. I can only sensitise them to pause for a moment," he says.

    Maddanahalli admits that while he does keep the audience in mind, it is most definitely not at the cost of seeking new vocabulary or sacrificing his vision.

    Muddaiah once again puts things into perspective when she says, "We may not understand Science, yet we accept it. Why then do we question art?"

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    The San Diego Museum of Art, an ornate building resembling a Spanish palace, nestled in Balboa Park, California, boasts of a collection of over 1,400 Indian artworks created for the Mughal, Deccani, Rajasthani and Pahari courts between 12th and 19th centuries.

    Opened in 1926, its the oldest, largest and most-visited art museum in the region, serving about 2,50,000 visitors each year.

    As San Diego is located adjacent to Mexico, the museums exhibition text is in both English and Spanish. The museum is most famous for its selection of artworks by European masters like El Greco and Henri Matisse. But, its Edwin Binney 3rd Collection is one of the most comprehensive and high-quality collections of South Asian art outside of India.

    Of those related to India, the works were created for Indian rulers as well as merchants from Persia, Central Asia and Europe who travelled to India, set down roots and commissioned art to local Indian artists.

    The artists were expected to adapt to the whims and aesthetics of their foreign patrons, while maintaining a quintessential Indian quality. The artworks are organised chronologically as well as by form, like paintings or sculptures, and by theme.

    The museum has South Asian, Southeast Asian and Persian art galleries, where selections from the Binney collection are always on display.

    The collection was put together personally by Edwin Binney 3rd (1925-86), an heir to the Crayola fortune. Crayola is known worldwide for its art products.

    Rather than acquiring examples of just one era or type of art, Binney sought to collect an encyclopaedic range of art from different epochs and schools of painting.

    Binney also collected objects dart like Persian miniatures, ballet prints, art from the Ottoman Empire and theatre books. He began by focusing on Persian and Turkish art, but as interest in this type of art was widespread at the time, Binney focused on collecting less faddish and, therefore, less expensive South Asian art.

    The Binney Collection ranges from narrative illustrations of Indian epics to portraits of important personages like emperors, as well as folk art from various regions of South Asia. Not all of the art was intended to be hung on walls.

    In addition to the massive assemblage of paintings, sculptures play an important part in the collection.

    However, paintings originally housed together in a single manuscript were removed and sold individually; the text in these large manuscripts was probably destroyed. So, the museum is now trying to preserve the art for future generations to appreciate.

    Marika Sardar, the museums associate curator of Southern Asian and Islamic Arts since 2013, has written extensively about the art of India, including the section on South Asian art, for the textbook Asian Art.

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  • 11/03/17--23:30: For the love of puns!
  • He looks like Vinod Kambli and sounds like Sachin Tendulkar. He tempts you to ditch the deadly Blue Whale Challenge for his amusing Pink Dolphin Challenge. An erstwhile TV writer, Sorabh Pant took to stand-up comedy when the art form was still nascent in India.

    Theres nothing subtle about the founder of The East India Comedy, who was recently in Bengaluru for the Black Dog Easy Evenings. From Pant on Fire to Travelling Pants and Rant of the Pant, Sorabhs style is, typically, over-the-top, with puns intended. Not surprisingly, hes a rage on twitter.

    Excerpts from an interaction with the comedian and author, who considers Jon Stewart (American comedian, writer and TV host) the funniest of them all:

    Whats the best and worst part about being a comedian?

    Travelling to so many places is the best part. Also, the people who come to see my show. Its awesome! However, sometimes people tend to get ridiculously vitriolic and hateful. But then, that comes with the territory. The worst part of being a stand-up comedian is that I spend a lot of time travelling alone, which means I get too much into my own head… which is not a very nice place! A comedians head is a dark and weird place.

    Is Indian stand-up comedy on par with the worlds best?

    The stand-up comedy scene in places like the US, the UK, Australia, and, perhaps, Canada may be better than ours, but we are doing pretty well. Our output and audience response are great. New-age channels like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon have been very helpful. Not just the comedy shows, but the web series and experimental content out there is changing the future of entertainment.

    Where in India do you find the most receptive audience?

    I dont think they are in the metros. This year, I did shows in places like Bhopal, Indore, Nagpur and Nashik, and saw how excited the audience gets. They cant believe you came all the way there! But its not so much about the city or the town; its about the crowd. In that sense, college shows are usually the best. Sometimes, older audiences are very receptive too. Im always happy to be surprised.

    Of all your opening acts, which is the most memorable?

    Ive enjoyed them all, whether it was the opening act for Rob Schneider or Vir Das. All of them were fun. Nonetheless, if I had to choose one, it would be Wayne Brady. You may or may not find him funny, but his crazy work culture is quite something. He was in India for five days and we were taking 6 am flights to new locations every day. Despite the jetlag and everything else, he was always on the ball.

    Whats more challenging, writing comedy or books?

    As a comedian, you usually write with your brain. The best jokes, though, are those that have heart. Ive started to realise this now, so my writing is more personal. I try to use my heart and soul too. With stand-up comedy, it takes a long time to get to crack the joke you want. But the good thing is that you get feedback from the audience every night. Writing fiction, on the other hand, takes a lot of focus and hard work. It needs structure, organic flow, characters with motivations. Ive written two novels and the third will be out this November. It has been five years in the making!

    Ultimately, both kinds of writing come with their own challenges.

    How has becoming a parent changed you?

    If I didnt have children, I would have just headed out to the US or Canada and honed my stand-up comedy skills However, when you have a family to support, you have to keep working. Your sons playschool fees have to be paid, daughters diapers bought. Theres no leeway to be lazy, which is a good thing. It keeps you pretty grounded.

    Besides, kids are more joyful than anything else you can have in life. And Im not saying that because I have two of them!

    Is stand-up comedy a viable career option?

    Yes, it is, but dont expect it to be easy. Even if you have two videos that go viral, you have to keep at it for years. Ive been a stand-up comedian for nine years and I can tell you that its not a place for lazy people. A word of advice for aspirants: dont quit your day job right away.

    What keeps you so active on social media?

    I like following news, and am fascinated by peoples opinions. So, I love twitter. Initially, I didnt quite understand Snapchat and Instagram, so I had to figure out a way to like them. And with Facebook, I love doing live video streaming. Basically, I like to interact with people, as long as they are not ****heads. I try be relatively balanced, even though many people may think Im not.

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    Baked beans can, 440 g
    Pure cream, 50 ml
    Milk, 150 ml
    Orange zest, 1
    Roasted whole coriander seeds, to serve
    Extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle

    Heat baked beans in a saucepan until hot then and puree with a stick blender until smooth.

    Add cream and milk and puree until soup has reached your desired consistency.

    Serve topped with orange rind, coriander seeds and a drizzle of oil to garnish.

    (Recipe by Matt Preston)

    Penne with Fresh Tomato Sauce

    Olive oil
    Onion, peeled and finely chopped, 2
    Garlic, peeled and finely chopped, 3 cloves
    Cherry tomatoes, sliced in half, 750 gm
    Passata, 2 bottles
    Chicken condensed stock pots, 2
    Thyme, 3 sprigs
    Bay leaf, 1
    Pasta, 500 gm
    Dried chilli flakes, to taste
    Basil, leaves removed and finely chopped, ½ bunch
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    Parmesan cheese, grated, for serving


    To make the fresh tomato sauce, drizzle olive oil in a pan and set over medium heat.
    Add onions and garlic and cook until soft but no colour.

    Add 600 grams cherry tomato halves and cook until broken down and juices released.

    Add passata sauce, rinsing out bottles with 1 cup water and add to the pan.

    Add chicken stock pots, thyme and bay leaf and allow to simmer gently until thickened and reduced, about 40 minutes. (Alternatively, place in a 140 degree C oven to cook). Remove from heat and pass through a sieve.

    Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until slightly underdone. Drain pasta and drizzle with olive oil.

    Place a large fry pan over medium heat and drizzle with olive oil. Add remaining cherry tomato halves and chilli flakes, to taste.

    Fry briefly then add 2 to 3 cups tomato sauce, chopped basil and drained pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and serve with grated parmesan cheese.

    (Recipe by Marco Pierre White)

    To check out more such recipes to treat your loved ones, catch Season 9 of MasterChef Australia in India from Monday to Friday at 9 PM only on Star World & Star World HD!

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  • 11/12/17--20:22: Of nature and legends
  • Ranganatha conjures to the mind an image of Lord Vishnu reclining in yoganidra (yogic sleep) on the five-headed serpent Adishesha but the Ranganatha at the Ranganatha Swamy Temple near Magadi is contrary to expectation. The sanctum houses an idol of Ranganatha depicted in a standing position. The temple was first consecrated in the early 12th century by the Chola rulers and has undergone numerous renovations and expansions ever since.

    The eye-catching gopura (tower) was built during the rule of the Vijayanagara Emperor Krishnadevaraya and was renovated by Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar in 1959. In front of the main deity is a small pit though which a stone juts out and is believed to be a saligrama (sacred stone). Any amount of water poured on it disappears in a few minutes! According to temple legends, the saligrama marks the place where Sage Mandavya who was performing penance saw Lord Vishnu. On the rear wall of the sanctum is another unique idol of Ranganatha in the usual reclining position believed to be growing out of the wall. It is called Beleyo Ranga (growing Ranga). There is a garudasthambha (pillar) just opposite the main shrine which mentions the offerings made by Krishnadevaraya in 1524.

    The architecture of the temple is a blend of many styles and there are some beautiful pillars in the mantapas. Outside the temple complex is a well maintained stepped well called Kaumodaki Gadha Theertha. The temple is situated atop a hill called Swarnadri Parvata. The village around the temple is called Tirumale and is just 2 km from Magadi Town.

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  • 11/12/17--20:28: The passion for farming
  • The four-and-a-half acre land in Yaraballi of Gubbi taluk in Tumakuru district is well known for its crop diversity. Here, short-term crops are given equal importance as long-term ones. Along with 1,200 areca and 250 coconut plants, the farm has pepper, banana, vanilla, drumstick, jackfruit, pomegranate, castor, flax seed plant, finger millet, flower and vegetable crops. The land, which was once leased for Rs 80,000 for 10 years, now has become a sustainable source of income for the family.

    The transformation is due to the meticulous planning and hard work of a mother and three daughters, particularly the elder one, Aruna. After completing her Diploma in Education, Aruna was forced to take the responsibility of the family and the farm when her father passed away a decade ago. Instead of giving the land on lease, Aruna decided to cultivate crops.

    Water scarcity has affected agriculture in this region. Even the borewells have gone dry. There are two borewells in Arunas farm and she efficiently manages the farm with available water through drip irrigation. To retain soil moisture, the entire farm is covered with plant waste and lentil plants. Mulching is also done in the space between the rows of flower crops. Cow dung manure is applied directly to the plants.

    Aruna has observed that mulching not only improves soil nutrition, but also checks weed growth. After realising the advantages of proper mulching, Aruna has started using biochar for soil amendment. She is a member of the self-help group initiated by Bengaluru-based Initiatives for Development Foundation (IDF) and gets useful information about farm related activities from the organisation.

    Self-reliance and direct marketing are the two major reasons for Arunas success in farming. She takes the produce to the markets in places like Sira, Gubbi and Tumakuru. While the family members do most of the farm work themselves, they hire labourers for a few tasks.
    Manure from two cows and sheep meets the farms requirement. Three years ago, Aruna stopped using synthetic fertilisers and pesticides in the farm. Through constant observation and innovation, she has been able to find eco-friendly remedies for pest and disease problems in the crops. For instance, recently when hundreds of coconut trees in the farm were affected by stem bleeding disease, she prepared medicine using locally available materials and saved the trees.

    Lakshmamma is proud of her daughters efforts and cites how people who refused to take her seriously in the beginning have changed their attitude towards her work. "We have not suffered losses for the last 10 years and the income has increased steadily," says Aruna. Proper crop combination, minimum dependence and hard work have paved the way for the farming success of the family.

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  • 11/12/17--20:30: One city, many towns
  • Cities are like people. Just as a persons character is not fixed but is determined by context, so it is with cities. Like people, they are not homogeneous. This is certainly true of Bengaluru. With multiple centres, multiple histories and multiple trajectories, Bengaluru is really several different, coexisting cities. You could wake up in one Bengaluru, have lunch in another and your evening tea in a third. How things have changed in 500 years. Or have they?

    Back in 1537, when Kempegowda established the city of Bengaluru, it is said that he invited traders and people in various professions to his new capital. Like other medieval Indian cities, Bengaluru too was organised according to occupation, with each locality devoted to one trade or profession.

    One of the earliest descriptions of Bengaluru comes to us from the Marathi poet Paramanand who, in the late 1600s, described the city in his poem. He talks of whitewashed mansions and great markets, of watchtowers and turrets, of deep lakes and fountains in every square in the old city.

    Multiple hues

    The fountains and turrets are long gone. Yet, the footprint of Kempegowdas fort still lives on, so does its character. Avenue Road is and was the main thoroughfare through the old pete area. Veer off into one of the small lanes to the left or right and it is almost like walking back 500 years. Narrow old lanes still zigzag through this part of the city. The jewellers and cloth merchants shops are still clustered where they were. There are still streets where all the shops sell dry fruits or spices.

    Two-wheelers loaded with merchandise teeter past. Men carrying heavy loads call out, "Side, side." The old city is an engine of commerce, both wholesale and retail. The very air thrums with trade, as it has for 500 years. The nature of some trades has of course changed. Where once shops sold leaf plates, they now sell thermocol and disposable plates. Plastic baubles, polyester saris and plastic trinkets now fill the shelves in many other shops.

    The dwellings themselves are now modern but the old temples built by the various communities of the area - the oil-pressers, gold merchants, weavers - still stand. Another striking constant are the kattes: open spaces that reveal themselves suddenly as you walk through the labyrinthine lanes. Usually these kattes have a peepal tree. Often there is a temple or a dargah next to it. In the times when Kempegowda rode through these areas on horseback, were there more such open areas, I wonder. Did some have the fountains that Paramanand speaks of?

    Just about 3 kilometres away, a new extension of Bengaluru came about 120 years ago, in response to a devastating epidemic of plague. Here too is a market, of a very different character. Basavanagudis Gandhi Bazaar is a visual and olfactory feast. Lined with flower stalls on one footpath, and vegetable sellers on the other, the vendors all vie for your eye with their creatively displayed colourful merchandise. There are showrooms and shops selling the usual clothes, shoes, bags and books. There are also grandige angadis, shops that stock items used in worship and rituals, items required in traditional
    Hindu marriages, uncommon spices used in traditional kitchens, and herbs for home-made medicinal concoctions.

    The pace of life seems to slow as you step off the frenetic market street into the quiet side streets. Women with flowers in their hair return from the market, laden baskets in hand. Several mathas dot Basavanagudis streets where dhoti-clad men chug past on scooters. The planning that went into the neighbourhood is still evident in the wide roads lined with gigantic trees, and the areas large parks. The occasional 100-year-old bungalows set in large gardens add to the genteel atmosphere.

    Culture fills the air in Basavanagudi. There are shops selling Indian musical instruments, discreet signs advertise classes in music, bharatanatyam or vedic chanting. Cultural institutions like the Basavanagudi Union, once colloquially referred to as Masti Club because the great litterateur frequented the place, and even the road names hark back to when the area was home to some of Kannadas greatest writers including D V Gundappa and A N Krishna Rao.

    The plague that led to the formation of Basavanagudi and Malleshwaram also led to the establishment of Fraser Town, just north of the existing Cleveland Town in what was then the Civil and Military Station of Bengaluru. Like Basavanagudi, Fraser Town, too, was planned to keep the plague away. This meant plots were to have bungalows only, roads were wide and with adequate drainage, and were usually laid out in chessboard

    Cosmopolitan culture

    Among the first few people to move to the new extension were those who had moved out of Shivajinagar. These included Muslims, Hindus and Christians. Soon, people from different communities began to call these areas home - Anglo-Indians, Mangalore Christians, Tamil-speaking communities and so on.

    Growing up in Fraser Town meant your neighbour on one side would be a Christian, on the other a Hindu, and one house away, a Muslim. As Peter Colaco, who grew up in this neighbourhood, says in his book on Bengaluru, "We took for granted the existence of different people around us, their different beliefs, their different languages."

    This cosmopolitanism meant a bonanza of foods and festivities for children (and adults)! For Christmas, all children, including Hindus and Muslims, went carol singing and everyone got kulkuls, rose cookies, cake and other goodies from their Christian friends and neighbours. For Ramzan, you would get biryani and sheerkurma from your friends. Yugadi meant holige from the aunty next door. And for Deepavali, everyone would turn out to burst crackers and of course, to eat! This pluralism continues to a large extent to this day.

    There are also a few physical remnants of the past here. Exuberant, parapeted, multi-roofed and monkey-topped bungalows still stand on some streets, quite in contrast with the more classical-looking Basavanagudi bungalows.

    The settlement of Halasuru predates the British by several centuries and yet is unmistakably shaped by them, or rather by their establishment of the cantonment. What probably began as a settlement clustered around the millennium-old Someshwara Temple later formed part of Kempegowdas territories, being granted to him by Achyutaraya, the then ruler of the Vijayanagar empire. The Halasuru Lake is said to have been added to the landscape during Kempegowdas times.

    In 1809, the new cantonment of Bangalore was established close by. This formed a new nucleus of growth for the city, attracting many
    migrants including Tamil, Marathi and Telugu speaking people. Halasurus distinctive character today is partly due to the synthesis of the various cultures of people who made it their home many generations ago.

    Halasuru is dominated by people in service occupations, many of whose ancestors worked in the army or in the cantonment. And while the bazaar in the pete has both wholesalers and retailers, like Gandhi Bazaar, Halasurus markets cater mainly to local residents.

    Unlike Basavanagudi and Fraser Town, Halasuru did not have bungalows in gardens. Instead, in the fashion of most Indian towns, its houses opened out onto the street. You can still see some of these old houses here, with other typical Indian features like jagalis, niches for lamps and courtyards.

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  • 11/12/17--20:36: Meet the young bibliophiles
  • Imagine a full-fledged library run totally and successfully by a small group of children, all of them under the age of 17, from a remote village. Seems far-fetched? But, a look at the Childrens Library in Chagaletti, a small village in North Bengaluru taluk will prove you wrong. A revolutionary concept that has worked wonders for the children, parents, teachers and the entire neighbourhood of villages, it is a library for the children, by the children and of the children.

    An initiative of the Child Rights Trust (CRT) that is working for the cause of children, the library was set up in 2010 and within a short span of eight months it was presented with the best community library award by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation. "As a director of CRT, I have always been interacting and working with children and when there was a suggestion by the children of our village to have a library in the village, I decided to go ahead with their request provided they take the ownership of managing the show. I attended a three-day workshop by the Hippocampus Reading Foundation where the whole process of running a library scientifically was explained. I then trained the children and they took it up from there," says Nagasimha, the man
    behind the initiative.

    The library was started in a room in his house with a small collection of 200 books and was managed entirely by six children (five girls and a boy), aged between 10 and 17, at that time. The entire management of the library including borrowing, returns, inventory and maintenance was taken up by these children. Today, it is an institution that has over 4,000 books and 200 members, including those from neighbouring villages. The library has not only grown exponentially, but has had a positive effect on the reading habits of the children.

    With more and more books being added, there is a keen interest among parents and teachers. "We support the library in all its educative initiatives and special events that are held to increase the awareness of children. The library has benefited the entire community as children have become voracious readers now, with less time spent on watching TV," says Prasad, a parent whose children visit the library regularly.

    The books are graded and matched with the profile of the children on a regular basis to ensure that the children are reading books relevant to their age. Witnessing the phenomenal success of the Chagaletti library, similar libraries have been set up in cities including Ballari, Kolar, Gadag, Chamarajanagar, Chitradurga and Dharwad under the guidance of these children.

    The library has attracted the attention of several non-profit organisations from other states of India as well as abroad and they have taken cues to replicate this model. "The right to participation is a key element in the overall growth and development of children into responsible citizens. The success of this library goes on to show that young children can be groomed not only to take ownership but also to be resourceful leaders," says Nagasimha.

    "We never had access to a library and this was the motivation for us to run one. While there were initial challenges in motivating the children, we overcame them by organising games and fun activities so that they visit the library and inculcate the reading habit," says Veda, who is a member of the team that runs the library. "I was 10 when the library started but with the help of five other members, I enjoyed taking responsibility of running the place," says Karthik, who is also a part of running the library since its inception.

    The children are also spreading the word by taking books to the nearby village schools. This has resulted in the development of a mobile library.

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  • 11/12/17--20:40: Delve into the regal past
  • The Naqquar Khana (Trumpet House), located in the premises of the world-famous Gol Gumbaz in Vijayapura, houses a museum of ancient artefacts that depict the society, culture and architecture of the region between the 6th and 18th centuries. In 1892, British archaeologists, Henry Cousens and Jas Burgess, began collecting objects of historical significance, and stored them in a small building in Anand Mahal of Vijayapura. This paved the way for the present day museum.

    When the British shifted the district headquarters from Kaladagi to Vijayapura, they decided to use the historical structures as administrative blocks. They found numerous rare artefacts and collectibles while renovating these monuments and all the items were moved to the museum. The British valued the ancient objects immensely and found the need for proper maintenance of the collection. With more additions to the collection, there was lack of space in the building. In 1912, the exhibits were shifted to the Naqquar Khana in the Gol Gumbaz complex.

    Diverse exhibits

    The structure is built using brown sandstone. The building has a cellar, ground floor and a first floor. The British renovated it to suit the requirements of a museum. More than 1,600 registered antiquities are exhibited in eight galleries.

    A mutilated sculpture of 11th century Nataraja with eight hands, a stone festoon (torana) depicting Lord Shiva dancing with his ganas, embossed sculptures playing musical instruments, hero stones from the 7th and 8th centuries, inscriptions found in the region, rare sculptures of Lord Keshava and Veerabhadra, an 8th century stone Ganesha found in Aihole, and a 14th century sculpture of Lord Parshwanatha are some of the important exhibits in the museum.

    In the ground floor, one can see a 6th century vijayasthambha (pillar representing victory) built by King Mangalesha. This structure was collected from Mahakuta. The stone representation of the head of Aliya Rama Raya of Vijayanagara dynasty can also be seen here. A 12th century pillar with inscriptions attracts ones attention. It has Sanskrit script on three directions and Kannada script at the lower part. A 13th century Kannada inscription exhibited here has reference to Vijayapura. A 17th century inscription in Arabic and Persian languages with attractive calligraphy is also on display. Other items that fascinate the visitors include stone crocodiles, stone windows with flower motifs and stone chains.

    Royal heirlooms

    One can get a glimpse of the rich art and culture that blossomed during the Adil Shahi rule in Vijayapura through the items on display in the first floor. The exhibits include everyday items of the royalty, their costumes, weapons and paintings of kings, queens and Sufi saints.

    Like any other kings, the Adil Shahi rulers used to test the food before consuming it, by placing it in celadon ware, which can detect food poisoning. The celadon ware is on display in the museum. Some of the antiquities exhibited here indicate the administrative and trade relations between Vijayapura and China.

    Coins of that era and manuscripts of the holy Quran illustrated with yellow, red and blue colours can be seen in the museum. Some of the letters of a manuscript are written in gold. Records at the museum indicate that these manuscripts were written between 13th and 18th centuries.

    Many other pieces of historical importance such as prose, poetry, a sanad (administrative document) with rajamudra (royal seal), firman (official decree), Persian carpet, a lock with unique technology, Bidri ware, a 3.9 feet long sword, weighing 7 kg and said to be used by King Afzal Khan are exhibited in glass cases. Six cannons of different sizes are placed at the entrance of the museum. The cannonballs are placed inside. The museum is managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). Nearly 900 people visit the museum every day.

    The museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm every day, except on Fridays. The entry is free for children. One can contact the museum on 08352-250725.

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    The San Diego Museum of Art, an ornate building resembling a Spanish palace, nestled in Balboa Park, California, boasts of a collection of over 1,400 Indian artworks created for the Mughal, Deccani, Rajasthani and Pahari courts between 12th and 19th centuries.

    Opened in 1926, its the oldest, largest and most-visited art museum in the region, serving about 2,50,000 visitors each year.

    As San Diego is located adjacent to Mexico, the museums exhibition text is in both English and Spanish. The museum is most famous for its selection of artworks by European masters like El Greco and Henri Matisse. But, its Edwin Binney 3rd Collection is one of the most comprehensive and high-quality collections of South Asian art outside of India.

    Of those related to India, the works were created for Indian rulers as well as merchants from Persia, Central Asia and Europe who travelled to India, set down roots and commissioned art to local Indian artists.

    The artists were expected to adapt to the whims and aesthetics of their foreign patrons, while maintaining a quintessential Indian quality. The artworks are organised chronologically as well as by form, like paintings or sculptures, and by theme.

    The museum has South Asian, Southeast Asian and Persian art galleries, where selections from the Binney collection are always on display.

    The collection was put together personally by Edwin Binney 3rd (1925-86), an heir to the Crayola fortune. Crayola is known worldwide for its art products.

    Rather than acquiring examples of just one era or type of art, Binney sought to collect an encyclopaedic range of art from different epochs and schools of painting.

    Binney also collected objects dart like Persian miniatures, ballet prints, art from the Ottoman Empire and theatre books. He began by focusing on Persian and Turkish art, but as interest in this type of art was widespread at the time, Binney focused on collecting less faddish and, therefore, less expensive South Asian art.

    The Binney Collection ranges from narrative illustrations of Indian epics to portraits of important personages like emperors, as well as folk art from various regions of South Asia. Not all of the art was intended to be hung on walls.

    In addition to the massive assemblage of paintings, sculptures play an important part in the collection.

    However, paintings originally housed together in a single manuscript were removed and sold individually; the text in these large manuscripts was probably destroyed. So, the museum is now trying to preserve the art for future generations to appreciate.

    Marika Sardar, the museums associate curator of Southern Asian and Islamic Arts since 2013, has written extensively about the art of India, including the section on South Asian art, for the textbook Asian Art.

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