Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Shadow work and the town of Mhow

The town of Mhow is famous for its shadow work. What shadow-work actually means it that the actual embroidary is never seen, but only the shadow or the faint color and outline of it is seen from the other side.

This work has caused much sorrow and confusion since the time it was created. My own mother once gave a suit to be stiched and the tailor like any sane person thought that the beautiful embroidery work should be presented outside and stiched the whole suit inside-out. I personally think that the whole story of the Shadow work might very well resemble that story of The Emperors New Clothes.

But one thing that is undeniable is that this is a work of art. The first thing that I thought on seeing the work was that it was a pity that they had made the shadowwork on such poor cloth. But then I realised that the cloth had to be thin and of that texture if the color of the threads had to be seen on the other side.

To make the shadow-work, a tracing is first printed on the cloth. You can still this dark colored stain in some of the pictures. In the confines of the tracing are then the painstaking work of the embroidery done. The trick in the whole thing is that the embroidery should not be visible on the other side. So if you look at the pictures, you shall see that on the actual visible side you hardle see any threads poking out their (in my opinion) beautiful head.

We bought two of these that you see here. The first one is for the top in white that I honestly can not figure out how it will turn out. My doubts about the feasibility of this peice turing out into a wearable peice of apparel are "Pssh'ed" and "Phoosh'ed" out of the window.

But the other one, the yellow thing promises to be awesome when it comes out. It is a cloth for a salwar Kurta and you can see where the neck goes. I guess once the neck goes correctly, the rest of the anatomical parts fall in place on their own. Salwar suits do look great, as you can see on the model in red on the link provided.

Of course my wife will look better.

Indian Postal Service - Philatelic account

I had written some time back, in an upbeat spirit about the Indian Postal service and the philitaly service that it offered. In the intervening period, the postal department has not done much (Apart from a few misplaced postcards- which could be because of Thai post) to remove the tinted glasses from my eyes.

The scheme that had made me so buoyant was brilliant in its simplicity. It purported that if you deposited some money with the post office, they would at no postal cost (all in house you see!) send you new philatelic stamps as and when they did get published.

I had put in my trust into the department and placed my 500 rupees in their care. That was in June and just when I was beginning to fidget, in came the mail with this package.

I must say that the packaging and the processing is great. The stamps come by speed post and are sealed in an impressive envelope that is sealed with wax (do they still do that?) on the behind. Inside the stamps are further enclosed in a clear polythene bag to protect them from any eventuality that the postal employee might face. And finally, the account sheet is great. In it are detailed every stamp that is sent, the total cost and the final balance that is left in your account.

The stamps themselves are not such "swoon-worthy". The only one that I liked is the one commemorating the Mutiny of 1806 at Vellore. I honestly did not even know anything about this, but this link provides some great info about the mutiny. If I might quote a few lines,

" The massacre of the helpless European sick so aroused the British that no mercy was shown; about 100 sepoys who had sought refuge in the palace were dragged out, placed against a wall and blasted with canister shot until all were dead. John Blakiston, the engineer who had blown in the gates, recalled that although such punishment was revolting to all civilized beliefs, `this appalling sight I could look upon, I may almost say, with composure. It was an act of summary justice, and in every respect a most proper one.' Such was the nature of combat in India where the `civilized' conventions of European warfare did not apply."

But history apart the stamp itself is a beauty with sepia tones and and artists sketch. A piece of art.

The other stamps are on the whole uninspiring stuff. A high court in Srinagar, a girls school and a college. Not something to slobber all over the keyboard about.

But for all those with a postal address in India, I most highly recommend a visit to the local GPO and opening an account with them. The least it will do is restore the faith in the amazing thing that the Indian Postal Department is.

A blog for dad

I have started a new blog. In it I will be putting up old snaps of dad and the family. The times when he was in the Indian Air force and even before. I was going to put them up in here, but then realized that this s-crap book was defintiely not the place that something like that should be tackled.

It promised to be a most exciting project. Atleast for me as I try to understand the times and the person before even I was born.

This is the linkto it.

Hope you people go over there once in a while and like it.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Dad with a Gnat MK1.

Tell me if life got any better!!

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Mhow - An Eating foray

I doubt even people staying in Mhow would describe it as a place of surpassing beauty. Any person who enters the small town of Mhow looking for beauty is promptly directed to the Cantonment area. Any person seeking to enter the cantonment area is promptly shown the wrong end of an SLR which miraculously does make the Mhow town look exceedingly beautiful by comparison.

I don't know if it was my misfortune that I am of the defence stock and was not shown the gun, but it did ensure that I shall not chronicle the beauty of the Mhow town in these lines. The Cantonment on the other hand is as beautiful as most cantonments seem to be. In this post monsoon season, the greens were everywhere and the wide open spaces were blooming with some amazing colors. The houses of the cantt. are ofcourse the same from kanyakumari to the valley. neatly spaced, yellow colored, with large lawns and peeling plaster. I think the architects keep it so deliberately so that the residents in them, that keep moving every two years don't miss their old homes.

My grandmother stays in Indore and it was to meet her that I had gone to that area. I decided to stay overnight at Mhow at my brothers place. A bonus of the trip was the fact that reliable information pointed to the existence of one of the few serviceable steam engine locomotives in the Mhow loco shed.

Sadly as I only reached Mhow later in the day, the trip to the loco shed was out. We spent some time indoors, catching up on the news and the events in the family. The gossips of the next generations and the generations past carried us well into the evening when we finally decided to venture out to the town.

3-dimensional plane. For a sailor like me, the navigation is further complicated by the fact that the narrow roads seem to be closing in from all sides with buildings. three storied high leaning on each other and finally inclining at crazy angles on the streets itself. To further complicate navigation, they have tied roped and lighting cables that criss-cross the road over the head, causing every truck to have a couple of boys sitting on the roof to clear them as they make their ponderous wayAs I said earlier, Mhow town is not really a place to wax eloquence about. It consists of three streets that crisscross each other in more places then seems mathematically possible on any abstract through the streets. The first street that I entered with my car, I had to reverse off because there was a huge tree in the middle of the road. The reason for that tree was later explained to me by a soul kinder then me. But it did promptly ensure that I immediately abandoned my car and set out on foot to discover Mhow town. The objective was simple to gorge ourselves on the street food till either our stomachs gave way or one of these buildings. I decided to follow Soulcurry ( from the thorntree) advice and set out on a nostalgia-driven culinary experience.
The first place of stop was the "Shankar kachauriwala". The Kachauris that they dish out does truly match up to its reputation. I had been an old patron of it incidental. In the mornings this fellow serves some of the best "Poha" to be found in these parts and I had taken a few plates the last time I had been here. The Kachauris were in a league of their own. The fellow would break into the middle of each of these piping hot things and pour some green chutney in the hole. As we chewed on them, the kachauri would simply dissolve into our mouths releasing flavours that begged to be reminded of.

Sabudana Kichdi was next on the menu. On the "Phool Chowk" os this stand that reputedly sells great sabudana Kichdi. There is a complication though. Right over Phool chowk, sit thousands of birds. On rooftops, on wires, on lamp posts, on everything. It makes one actually want to petition the local government to change the name of the place to "Fertilizer Chowk". But braving it all, I ate the sabudana with great relish. Two plates.

Sadly the rest of Souls old haunts have gone out of business. The pandit sweet shop, which was famous for milk-cakes has shut shop. There is yet to open a new business in that location. Also the hot-dog stand outside Orpheum cinema is missing. This is possibly because of the fact that the cinema hall does not seem to have opened in a decade. I investigated the scene in the morning and the only thing to be found there was a three wheeler missing two of its wheels.

But in place of these old eating joints, there seem to be no dearth of new ones that promise to be as enduring in the memory. One of the most noteworthy being the Kerela lunch home that serves awesome non veg fare.

As I left for Indore in the morning for Indore, bumping along in one of the infamous blue bus, I reflected that I might actually never come back to Mhow. My brother was posted out and it seemed unlikely that I would make my way to those narrow streets again. But one thing was decided. Regardless of what it did to my heart, Mhow does certainly occupy a fond place in my stomach.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Me , my god and some milk

I rarely joke about god. And I expect others to do the same. So today I got a bit of a shock when the TV announcer was shouting that Ganesh idols across the country were gobbling up milk like there was no tomorrow.

A Mr Pinki from bhubneshwar was on the line.

"Hello Mr pinki? "
"Yes Ji. So did the ganesh idol drink milk from your hand?"
"Nahi nahi sir. But it did drink milk from my mummy's hand. please speak to her."
"Yes madam? please go ahead."
"Yes yes. So the lord ganesh drank from my hands. I took it in a cup and the whole milk disappeared."
"So madam, how are you feeling now that god has eaten food from your hands?"
"Ji I am feeling good."
"Did you hear that?"
"Did you hear that?"
"Did you hear that?"
I realized that unless I replied, my wife would continue this talk ad nauseum,
"Em? Realize what?"
"People are feed ganesh. We should too."
"You got to be kidding."
She did not had to be kidding.

So we dutifully picked our small silver ganesh from my black bag and put it in a cup. and with great reverence lowered a spoon of milk to its tusk.


Amazing but true. The whole spoon was empty in a few seconds. As I was wondering if the god had also been watching my bedroom antics in his state of awareness, my wife pointed out that we might also feed it the few drops that had spilt in the cup. As we poured the spilled milk in the spoon, the spoon was again full!Two miracles in as many minutes! I swear. Just to be sure of this, I repeated the miracle enough times to appease any scientific mind.

Great fun it is.

But I'm switching off my bedroom lights tonight.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Mention by that Mexican Guy!

That is me! I am velu! I got mentioned here!

I was described as "unlike the very satisfied, and always graceful writer on everything from postcards to Turkish seaports to the recent tragedy in Mumbai, and hilariouly on buying -- or not buying -- a cell phone... sailor,writer and racontuer, Anuj Velu )."

Happiness! Happiness!

Richard: Since you are probably the only person other then dad who reads this I have added your blog as a link on the right:)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Those Singing Indians

I was feeling a bit embaressed after a bout of rather vigrous singing on our cycle expidition at kanchanaburi. I went up to our guide and asked her,
"Don't the Thai people sing much?"

"No." She replied.

"Oh! Well in India, we are always singing."

"Yes" She Replied seriously, "I have seen the movies."

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Mention On India Blog Watch!

Much Happiness! The bills of lading was mentioned on the India Blog watch.

Theme pubs in Nagpur

The city of Nagpur, in recent times, has taken a lot of beating for being a retrogate, and underdeveloped location that does not even belong in any map worthy of its name. My wife of course points out that this malecious propoganda is driven solely by my blog posts. To counter this and other similar allegations, over the coming days I shall endevour to redress the situation.
There were ofcourse the wonderful pictures of the bovines running around on the Nagpur roads.
A true example of the wondrous ecosystem that is Nagpur.

But that does not mean that Nagpur is something that dies at night. Infact the nightlife is one of the most redeeming feature of this city. Today I shall talk about the various theme pubs in the city.

Gangster-Criminal theme pub : There is a pub out here with and Gangster-Criminal theme to it. The whole place is dimly lit and for the appropriate sound effect the songs are bleated out from Gaint speakers that will make you deaf within a min of entering. The best thing about this theme pub is the attention to detail. You have to look really hard for them, but they are all around.
* Firstly, they don't let you in directly. You first knock on the door and then someone first slides open a small porthole before opening the door.
* Then the props are amazing. Sometimes they put pools of blood like material lying around here and there.
* Apart from hiring actors to occasionally brawl with each other, they even stage police raids on occasion.
A great experience to be had.

Poverty - theme pub:: This is going back to the grassroots pub. Sort of like dressing down. There is ofcourse no lights and they make you sit on the floor. They even put your forign liquor in country liq bottles and serve them to you. The sound system is appropriate. An old two in one bleats out All india Radio. The best touch is the toilet, that has to be seen to be believed. I have it from reliable sources that people from as far as the Mumbai health dept have come by to see this toilet. An experience not to be missed.

Illegal theme pub:- This is another neat theme pub. For all respects this does not look like a pub. Infact nowhere on the premises orin the menu, is there any indication that this is a pub or that any alcohol is ever served out here. Infact the best place about it is that here the customer is entertained by playing games. If you have to order Rum, you have to wink at the waiter and ask for "Cola". "Orange" For Whisky and "7 Up " for Vodka. Sometimes to liven up the atmosphere, a boy comes in running shouting, "POLICE AALI! POLICE AALI!" . Immediately all of us are rounded up and herded into a small damp and dark room for about an hour. Great fun and excitement all around.

So the next time anybody points a crooked finger at this city, point them along to this blog. Should shut them up for good.

Friday, August 04, 2006

That Cow ain't no friend of mine

The term "companiable silence" is rarely used in conjunction with me. Men talk with me because my fidgeting makes them nervous and women have discovered that talking to me makes me sometimes take my eyes off their breasts.
The constant talking of course means that a wide array of talk takes place. On my visit to thailand (i find I am starting a lot of my sentences like this these days) I found a lot of women asking me if I really was on a honeymoon. But after that conversation was tough to source. There was this lady from Netherland. All I could ask her was what the hell was the difference between Netherland and Holland? But she did grill me thoroughly. One of her questions was about the Cows.

"Was it true that in India Cows moved around the streets because they were holy?"

I had thought that these questions along with the doubts of indians sitting on elephants were definitively settled by the publication of the article "The Indian woman." in the July 99 edition of Penthouse. But evidently this does not seem to be the case.

The whole thing of course began because of that infernal Tintin comic where we see Captain Haddock sitting on the cow in the middle of the road. That comic has proved to have cause much sorrow to all white people when they have found out that Indian cows don't run. The Indian cows are holy yes. The cow is supposed to have originated from the cosmic churning of the oceans by the Gods and the Asuras. And yes it is of great use to us all. Not only does the COw provide us with milk throughmost of her life, but also gives us the oxen that actually probably does more work and carry more people in India then automobiles. The cow symbolises the Earth. As such she is considered the mother of humanity. Every part of her from the cow dung to her urine is useful. In villages, cowdung mixed with clay gives us tremite-freewalls and burnt on the fire gives us dinner. The term "Go-dhan" means the wealth of cow, is literally that. The number of cows a villager has is his wealth.

The significance of the cow is sometimes lost on city people, but its deeply ingrained in the fabric of Hinduism and the country. In the evenings, when the cows come back in the villages, their dust hangs in the air. This period is called "Go-dhuli". This is an extremely auspicious time. In fact, my wedding took place at go-dhuli at 1919hrs. So you see, the cow is pretty much the best animal you want around on your streets givena choice, but thats not the reason why we don't pounce upon them and turn them to burgers.

"Thats not the reason?"


"Then what is?"

"Well its like this, Cows are our friends. You don't eat dogs right?"

"No we don't."

"Well, that the reason why we don't do the cows in. Because they are friends."

"Isn't that a hamburger you are having?"

"Well er... yes, but you see, I don't eat beef in India. These Thai cows, they ain't no friends of mine."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The 8 billion strangers inc.

Today caught me unawares sipping filter coffee at Muthu’s. Behind the BDA complex. It was good coffee. The sort of coffee that with the right sprinkling of sunlight brings out the bonhomie towards fellow man & wants to make you pretend to be a secret agent in Russia or something. So Here I was, lost in the golden steam & warm sunlight when a white lady got off a rickshaw. Eyes locked. I smiled, raised glass. She smiled, bowed her head, went on her way.
I took another sip. I though. I took another sip. I simply could not remember when I had last smiled at an Indian woman who I did not know. Now my thought processes are a bit slow, so I allowed it some more time, but I still could not remember the last I had smiled to an stranger. I decided to redress such deficiencies without the least delay. I took another sip.
I spotted a target. She was middle aged, with some sort of a folder held in one her arm while the other one was busy pushing a cellular phone inside one of her facial cavities. Her path would cross less than a meter in front of my chair. Now women know I’m looking at them even when I’m trying not to look at them. I think I have that sort of an unlook. But this woman refused to believe what the corner of her eye told her. She passed less then half a meter ahead of me & I followed her face like I follow the motions of somebody serving me a scoop of ice cream. But she did not turn. There is not much you can smile about that. I took another sip.
I followed faces. Like some fan at Wimbledon. To & fro. To & fro. I followed, cell phones. Astonishing numbers of cell phones walking around these days I tell you. I followed, sunglasses. Tinted to tainted. I followed hair. Tied back to all tied up. I followed hair clips. Strict to strapped. I followed bindi’s. Splayed like stars to starred like the sun. And then she came.
She had flowers in her hair. Jasmine mixed with those red ones. But more of the Jasmines. And less of the red ones. No sun glasses. For some reason you never see Jasmine with sun glasses. Either you have Jasmine, or you have sunglasses. I looked at her eyes. They were looking at mine. Have you ever noticed how eyes focus at ten meters? You see the eyes lost in some internal thought. One blink. And they find you.
I looked down. Noticed a coffee mark on the table. I looked up. The Jasmine were waving goodbye. I looked down. The coffee was finished. The glass empty. It was time to go home.