Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Nostalgia for Zambia

Childhood memories are always special.  Every nook  and corner where one has walked
 and experienced life has a different meaning altogether from our adult life.

While checking on the  Traffic Sources in my Blog i came across Google's South Africa
 referring site, and i assume za probably stands for Zambia.  This set in motion
 memories more than three decades old.  I lived in Mongu from Mid 1976 to mid 1980.

 This picture was taken in December 1979  in the Campus of Holy Cross Secondary
 School in Mongu,the Head quarters of Western province in Zambia where i lived
 for four years,completing my Senior Cambridge. Mongu is a town by the banks
 of Zambezi river.

I remember only a few names: Caroline Lee Morgetts, Ivy Gould, Diana, Lubinda Mbulai,  Agnes Manbolwa Ketembo.

Mr Morraes was the Principal and a host of other teachers and sisters were there. 
 Mr Nyoni,our maths teacher, Sr Perpetua our English Langurage and
 Literature teacher, Mr Martin Bassant our Science teacher, Mr Grier our
 Geography teacher and Class Teacher.

If anyone of you in the pictures reads this Blog, do get in touch with me.  I
 would love to walk down memory lane and make contact 
and renew ties with Mongu.

Here's wishing myself Good Luck!! 

Monday, March 14, 2011


Khaa key gujiya, pee key bhaang,
laaga k thora thora sa rang,
baaja ke dholak aur mridang,
khele holi hum tere sang. 

Winters have gone and colorful Spring is here.  I can see new leaves on my Kadi patta tree and the Rangoon creeper.  And just around the corner is the Spring festival of Holi, celebrated with gusto throughout India, especially in the North of the country.

Holi marks the end of the winter gloom and rejoices in the bloom of the spring time. It is the best time and season to celebrate.

Celebration of the festival of Holi goes back in time in India, as it has been mentioned in memoirs of several travellers as  well as our granthas.  There are several legends associated with the celebration of Holi the most prominent being  of the Demon King Hiranyakashyap.

Hiranyakashyap wanted everybody in his kingdom to worship only him but to his great disappointment, his son, Prahlad became an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. Hiaranyakashyap commanded his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap. Holika had a boon whereby she could enter fire without any damage on herself. However, she was not aware that the boon worked only when she enters the fire alone. As a result she paid a price for her sinister desires, while Prahlad was saved by the grace of the god for his extreme devotion. The festival, therefore, celebrates the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of devotion. 

Legend of Lord Krishna is also associated with play with colors as the Lord started the tradition of play with colours by applying colour on his beloved Radha and other gopis. 

 On the eve of Holi, Holika Dahan takes place. Effigy of Holika, the devil minded sister of demon King Hiranyakashyap is placed in the wood and burnt. For, Holika tried to kill Hiranyakashyap's son Prahlad, an ardent devotee of Lord Naarayana. The ritual symbolises the victory of good over evil and also the triumph of a true devotee. 
Next day, is  the main day of Holi celebrations. The day is called Dhuleti and it is on this day that the actual play of colours take place. There is no tradition of holding puja and is meant for pure enjoyment.
The tradition of playing colours is particularly rampant in north India and even in that region, there can be no comparison to the Holi of Mathura and Vrindavan

Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and  Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.

 Holi is celebrated at a time of the year when the fields are in full bloom and people are expecting a good harvest.  Reason enough to celebrated the festival with merriment and fervor.

A few days before the festival, the market is flooded with riot of colors, both dry and pakka colors , which are mixed with water.  

The market place becomes a riot of colors with gulal, and heaps of dry colors in every hue.  Not to be missed are pichkaris which are a great  favorite with children.

The festvial of Holi, secvond only to the most important festival of Indians, the Deepawali is also very popular with Bolly wood.  The Holi celebration of R K Studio belongiong to the kapoor family and at Pratteksha, the home of Superstar Amitabh bachhan are important events in Mumbai.

Holi songs have found their way into several movies,  perhaps the most famous being Rang barse from the movies Silsila.

To further enhance the festive spirit of Holi celebrations we have a social sanction to get a kick with the tradition of bhang. Then there is total wildness as people dance to the rhythm of dholak and sing traditional folk songs in loudest possible pitch. 

In the midst of these colouring games are savoured the mouth watering holi specialities like gujiya.


Already in the market near my home, gujiyas are being made in wholesale as people love to eat this sweet around Holi time.

Holi of Barsana, the birthplace of Radha, a village, near  Mathura, is of particular interest. Here, men from Nandgaon, the land of Krishna come to play Holi with the girls of Barsana.  But, instead of colours they are greeted with sticks by the gopis. Hence, the Holi get its new name here-Lathmaar Holi. 

In almost every neighborhood in North India, people smear color on each other and wish each other  Holi mubarak.  The children are extremely excited and move aroun in tolis, drenching anyone and everyone with colourful water with their pichkaris.  Not to be missed are water balloons which are thrown at every passerby by the joyous children. Buckets full of colored water and even pipe hoses are used to revel and celebrate this colorful festival.

Amidst the exciteemnt and celbration there is reason to be cautious.  For many chemicals are present in the colopirs which canl lead to serious health problems.  Silver color contains silver aluminiums bromide which is carcinogenic. Black color contains lead oxide which can lead to renbal failure. Green color contains copper sulphate which can lead to temporary blindness.

So there are several options to  making home made colors. marigold flowers, tesu flowers, haldi, beetroot  to name a few.  And if you dont want to go to the trouble of making these colors, 

thankfully there are healthy options in the market selling herbal and organic colors.

So, this year on HOLI  gorge on gujiya, indulge in bhang pakoras, and play safe Holi with organic colors.  Wishing you  HOLI MUBARAK!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Enigmatic Women : 50th Post!

Today on International Women's Day , I have picked  10 women from the past and present who have made women proud and are a role model  to thousands of women from across the globe.  I felt this was an apt way to write my 50th post today. Take a look

Indira Gandhi  India's only female Prime Minister till date and the world's all time longest serving Prime Minister, having served for a total15 years.   She started her political career in 1950s as her father Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru's unofficial personal Assistant.

She was instrumental in bringing the Green Revolution, whereby India's chronic food shortages were transformed into surplus production of wheat, rice, cotton and milk. Post Operation Blue Star in Amritsar, she was assassinated.She brought about a reduction in poverty from 65% to 45%. Literacy increased by 30%. and Food Production increased by 250% during her tenure.

Cleopatra   69 BC to 30 BC An ancient Greek queen and last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt.  As Pharaoh she consummated her liaison with Julius Ceaser that solidified her

grip on the throne.  She later married Marc Antony.

 After losing the  Battle of Actium, like her husband she committed suicide by killing herself by a bite of cobra.She was a most magnetic and seductive women whose beauty and beauty secrets are legendary.  It is believed that she bathed with goat's milk and honey and used herbs extensively as part of her beauty regime 

Mother Teresa  She founded the Missionaries of Charity in Kolkota in 1950.  For over 45 years she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned and dying. She won the Noble peace prize in 1979, and India's Bharat Ratna in 1980.

 Her mission spread all over the world  with 610 centers and 123 countries. 

Albania's International airport has been named after her as this was her native country.  In 2009 the Mother Teresa Memorial house was opened in her Hometown Skopje in Republic of Macedonia.

Sonia Gandhi  Six years after assassination of her husband Rajiv Gandhi, she joined Indian Congress party in 1997.  A year later she was elected the President of INC,  Indian national Congress, a post she heads till date.

 She has been elected the world's third most powerful woman, TIME's 100 most influential people in the world by a segment of voters.  When the country objected to her reign of becoming Prime Minister, she resigned gracefully and opted to support the Congress without the post.  

Kiran Bedi  A social activist and a retired IPS Officer. In 1972 she became the first woman to join the IPS. She was the Host of the popular TV show 'Aap Ki Kachhari'. 

She founded two NGOs, Navjyoti  and India Vision foundation.  She was instrumental in bringing reforms in Tihar jail for better life  of the prisoners.  She has been  honored with several Indian awards and the Magsaysay Award.

Hillary Clinton  A lawyer by profession, she became the first lady when her husband Bill Clinton became the President in 1993.  She was the first First Lady to hold a Post Graduate degree and to have her own professional career up till  the time of entering the White House. 

 When the Monica Lewinsky scandal happened, though privately furious at Bill, as a true life companion she issued a public statement reaffirming her commitment to their marriage. She lost the Presidential  candidature to President Barack Obama , but now serves as the 67th U S Secretary of State under him.

Her Excellency Smt Pratibha Patil  She is the 12th and first woman President of India. She won the Presidential election in July 2007, defeating her nearest rival by over 30,000 votes.  

She has set up several Philanthropist organizations. 

She started her professional care as a Practicing lawyer at Jalgaon District Court  in Maharashtra  and worked on various social activities especially upliftment of poor women

Kalpana Chawla  Indian American astronaut, originally from Karnal,  Haryana, India.  A Doctorate in Aerospace Engineering, she started working with NASA in 1988.  She joined NASA's astronaut corps in 1995. She was the first Indian born woman to fly in space in 1997.  She died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster on Feb 1, 2003.

  She has been awarded by NASA for her contribution. 
At least 30, 000 school children and citizens joined hands to make a 36.4 km long human chain to support the demand of Kalpana Chawla Medical College in her hometown Karnal.

The girl's hostel in her Alma Mater, Punjab Engineering College in Chandigarh,  has been named after her.

Oprah Winfrey  American TV Host, actress, producer and Philanthropist, best known for her 'Oprah Winfrey Talk Show', which has become the highest rated program of its kind in history.  She has been ranked the richest African American woman of 20th century, the greatest Black  Philanthropist in American history, and is considered the most influential woman in the world.  

She has given an estimated $303 million in Charity.  Among  her several awards is the Bob
Hope Humanitarian Award in 2002.

Anjolie Ela Menon A leading contemporary female artist.  Her paintings are displayed in several Museums across the world.  She was awarded Padma Shree in 2000. She first sold her paintings at the age of 15.

At 18, she held her  solo exhibition with 53 paintings in a variety of styles.  Her creative brilliance won her a French government scholarship in Paris. 

 During this time she extensively traveled in Europe and West Asia studying the  art forms.  She  also paints murals and has represented India abroad.

The list is eclectic, but each of these 10 women have shown the world what women are capable of achieving. Women often termed as fragile have more endurance, resilience and courage as they live their entire life for their loved ones, quite often not giving themselves  the due recognition.  From the rural world to the urban world women have contributed immensely to society and will continue to do so as long as humanity lives.  I salute the spirit of women.

So lets sit back and enjoy today's celebration of womanhood.   I leave you with an apt quote: 

"You gain strength, courage and confidence with each experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.  You are able to say to yourself , " I lived through this horror.  I can take the next thing that comes along". You must do the  thing you think you cannot do ."  -- Eleanor Roosevelt .

Let us all salute the spirit of women.  Happy women's Day!!