December 31, 2007

2008








Peace and happiness to you all, through 2008, whether your new year starts on Bohag Bihu, Nabo Barsho, Baisakhi, Gudi Padwa, Navroz, Losoong,
Puthandu, Ugadi, Vishu, 1 Jan...or any other day.

December 27, 2007

Please see 'Taare zameen par'

If you are/were a child, if you are a teacher, if you are a sensitive person, if you are a father, if you are a mother...oh, if you are a mother...please see Taare zameen par.

A beautiful, sensitive film that tugs at one's heart, again and again and again.

And, it is an honour to have Aamir Khan and Darsheel on my blog. Now I just have to go and paint. See the film and you'll know why I say this.

December 17, 2007

Excitement of the week — big baobab tree near Golconda!

I first came to know about the Baobab tree when I read Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry’s delightful book The Little Prince. I have known about , and have seen, the baobab tree in Nanakramguda, a small village off the old Bombay-road in Hyderabad. But last weekend, I was elated when I discovered this massive tree, near the Golconda fort. Just look at its girth!

I especially liked the landscape from the top of the fort wall --- the tree against the backdrop of the Qutb Shahi tombs (last photo), a popular tourist spot.


Some facts from Wikipedia: Baobab is the common name of a genus (Adansonia) containing eight species of trees, native to Madagascar, mainland Africa and Australia. Other common names include boab, boaboa, bottle tree and monkey bread tree. The species reach heights of between 16–82 ft (exceptionally 98 ft) tall, and up to 23 ft (exceptionally 36 ft) in trunk diameter. They are noted for storing water inside the swollen trunk, with the capacity to store up to 120,000 litres of water to endure the harsh drought conditions particular to each region.

Interesting trivia
- The baobab is the national tree of Madagascar.
- Baobabs are also used for bonsai.
- The baobab is occasionally known colloquially as "upside-down tree" (from the Arabic legend which claims that the devil pulled out the tree and planted it upside down). This is likely derived from older African lore. The story goes that after creation, each of the animals was given a tree to plant and the hyena planted the baobab upside-down.
- The Little Prince describes the baobabs as "trees as big as churches". The Little Prince is worried that baobabs would grow on his small asteroid, take up all the space and even cause it to explode.
- There is an important baobab tree in Kunta Kinte’s village in The Gambia from Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family.
- Rafiki, in The Lion King, makes his home in a baobab tree.

December 10, 2007

Dream homes/home dreams

Luxury villas, gated communities, bungalows, NRI cities, elite residencies...these are the names one sees being used for dwellings that would become someone’s homes. Houses that sold for some lakhs are now being sold for some crores. This business of ‘property’ is far, far from the reality in which I live, and I get perplexed by how much money people are willing to pay for a home.

When we got our flat done in 2001, it was under the most unexpected of circumstances. Having been cheated by the builder, we were forced to complete the flat ourselves. We had not saved for this, but since we had to do it, we started with idealism and dreams. Very soon we had to come back to reality...every time we went to buy anything for the house—whether it was wall tiles, a wash basin or a switch board—we had to make an agonising choice between what we wanted and what we could afford. Invariably we compromised, and got the one that was not the cheapest but not top of the line either.... again and again we were put firmly into a place that spelt middle class.

In our house, there are no fancy fittings nor is there the best in technology...taps look like taps, doors and cupboards don’t have a brand name, and our bathrooms are wet...and not like those carpeted glamour rooms most people seem to want. But over the years, our house became a home. It reflects us...our children’s paintings adorn the walls, we designed our furniture from teak wood from the doors of our old house, there are plenty of books and paper, paints and music, and a happy mess. We love it, we try our best to maintain it well, people come and go.

We went for the grihapravesam of a high-end flat recently. The top-of-the-line in 2001 seemed bottom-of-the-line when I saw this house. It came fully furnished; everything was shining, impeccable, futuristic. In spite of my cheerful personalised home, I felt jealous as hell, and terribly ashamed that I felt this way. I felt jealous because, all said, the flat was fantastic, and I knew that this was, for the likes of me, simply unattainable. The fine drapes, the plasma TVs, sleek kitchen, glamour bathrooms...they were everything I could never afford. But I asked myself honestly, if I could afford it, would I have chosen a house like this? The answer was no...if I had the money, I would buy a small house with a sloping roof, and a little garden all around...

...Much like the home I grew up in, and like the home I was welcomed into after marriage. Both ordinary but large houses with greenery all around...with mango, guava, badam and sapota trees, Ashokas and bougainvillas along the compound walls, with the sweet smell of Bakula and tree jasmines, raat-ki-rani and din-ka-raja. During my childhood, rainy season invariably found my mother and I digging, preparing plots to plant seasonals that would burst into beautiful bloom. I used to study on the terrace, with my desk in the half-sun, half-shade of a woodrose creeper. The house I grew up in, and interestingly, the one my husband grew up in, were shelter, not just for the people it belonged to, but also for many others who needed to be there for study or job, or for child widows to simply spend all their lives in because they had no other place to go to.

I realise now that I spent my childhood in a ‘luxury villa’...where my parents still live, and where my children have the good fortune to spend their holidays in. However, 25 years back, if someone had told me that we were living in an ‘elite residency’, I would have just laughed and dismissed it away. Such a thought never occurred...one just lived in large spaces, among ‘unbranded’ surroundings in a house full of people, chaos and laughter.

An apology to Africans

We have had a professional connect with Africa for a long time. While at ICRISAT during the eighties, we met and were friends with sever...