Celebrating India’s (food) festivals!!!

It’s that time of the year in India. The scorching heat of the summer is behind us and the monsoon wherever applicable is in its last lap. Come August and the general mood in the country changes in line with the changing weather.  Though we don’t have a pleasant spring as a season in India (except may be Kashmir), in this time of the year, there is a spring in everyone’s feet.  Starting with Id and then the Rakshabandan it’s an avalanche of festivals in India from August till Feb next year.  One can see this festival spirit manifesting itself in the media, in streets, in shopping malls and where have you. What I have noticed in the last many years is that irrespective of the state of the economy, the mood of the people in this period is in a state of buoyancy.  Then it dawned on me that the day-today lives of millions of people is also linked to the economics of festivals – the increased spending on clothes, on festivities, religious ceremonies, investment in real estate, starting of new businesses, renovation/painting of homes, feasting on food,…,… So festive season is one happy season for all.

The difference is while most of the countries in the East and West and the Middle have just one or two important festivals in a year, we in India are blessed with many. Thanks to the number of Gods we Hindus subscribe to. This is one thing in which we are clearly the envy of many countries.  And thanks to our regional identities, we don’t have the concept of one important Pan – Indian festival which we all celebrate but many. If it is Diwali in the North, it is Durga Pujo in Bengal, Onam in Kerala and so on. In my earlier company, my Japanese friends were bemused and amused to see different holiday lists for our different branch offices.

In all this, one thing which cannot be missed is the connect between the Pet (stomach) and Pooja.  It is interesting to note that just like each festival has its own link with a God, it also has associated unique food items going with it :) These are supposedly meant for offering to God which eventually ofcourse find its way to our stomachs. So if it is Kozhakattai (Modak) for Ganesh Chaturthi, it is Appam, Cheedai for Krishna Jayanti, Pori Urundai for Kaarthigai, Different types of Sundal for Navrathri, and so on. So much so for many years I didn’t know why Kaarthigai was celebrated but knew that Karthigai means Pori Urundai :) :)    In fact celebration of Onam festival is never complete without the traditional “Ona Sadhya” which with its array of dishes on the plate or rather leaf challenges the digestive ability of many a stomach of this generation.

Sadya

One really wonders how our elders came up with this timetable of different dishes for different festivals. Safely I inclined to conclude that they saw themselves in God and came up with things what they liked depending upon the season.

This brings me to the old or rather our youth times when at home the mother gets extremely busy during festival times trying to do justice to the “Naivedyam”(Food offering) specifications for each festival by preparing all at home.  The preparations usually start 1 or 2 days in advance. Keeping the prepared items from our prying eyes or rather mouth till the Pooja / Naivedyam are over was always a mission unaccomplished for the mother :) :)  The festival times also provided opportunities to showcase their culinary skills to friends and neighbours by distributing the home-made stuff and earn ‘likes’ in a pre-Facebook time.  Among the neighbourhood, it was always few mamis’ stuff apart from our mother’s which were in demand. I vividly remember in the 9 days of Navrathri the houses we choose to visit depends upon the cooking skills of the mamis :) :)

These days the mothers have different challenges. Since the entire process of preparing appropriate dishes for festivals has been “Adayared” (If outsourcing and losing of jobs to Bangalore is called “Bangalored” then outsourcing of the preparation of food items to ‘Adayar Ananda Bhavan’ is called” Adayared”!!!), knowing where to outsource/source what for different festivals is the biggest challenge.  At home, we as children displayed humongous appetite to polish off things prepared in quick time. These days the children have little interest and less appetite to gorge on the different offerings which come along free with festivals.  So gradually the linkage between pet and pooja is gradually dwindling I guess.

Today is Krishna Jayanti. Time to wind this up and time to finish the Pooja of Lord Bal Krishna, do Naivedyam and then launch into next Pooja i.e Pet Pooja :) :)

Postscript:  While we were discussing about Gokulashtami,… this morning, my 7 year old daughter asked her mom, “Even after eating so much butter, how is Krishna not fat???”  For GenY, Pet poojas can wait I guess.

Stir up to Sell – The New Mantra(d)!!!

 I don’t recall many ads in the recent past which have kicked off such a huge debate as the new Airtel ad which went on air last week.  If you are one to miss that, do watch it here.  Twitterati is divided in the middle as to if the ad is reinforcing male/female stereotypes or breaking. Or for that matter if the ad is trying hard to be feminist when it is not and so on. As is the wont these days, when social media buzzes on something, can the main stream media be left far behind?? I must have poured into atleast 10 columns trashing or eulogizing the ad.

This is one interesting debate on TV !!!

While the ad breaks new ground in showing a successful woman who is giving stern work instructions to her male subordinate in the 1st half, in the second half, the same lady is shown as a better half cooking dinner for her husband who is incidentally the same subordinate at office. The common critical take in the social media is questioning this apparent stereotyping of women – as submissive where the lady inspite of being a successful career woman has to don the dutiful wife role at home and cook food.  Coming on the heels of the now famous quote of Indra Nooyi that “Women can’t have it all” the response to this ad has been pretty predictable. Somehow the narrative of a successful career woman but cooking food for her partner at home has not been consumed well.

airtel ad

In all this debate on the ad what is being missed according to me is the strategy behind the narrative of the ad itself. Which is, to take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and be top of the mind for a good few days there by get more bang for the buck spent. And this trend in advertising has not started with this Airtel ad. This goes back quite a few years. In the past marketers were more circumspect in adopting this “Stirring up a storm” strategy to sell their products. So you saw this once in a while like the Liril waterfall ad of yore or the ad for Tuff Shoes where the models Milind Soman and Madhu Sapre were wearing just a snake and so on,..

But oflate, I guess marketers and their advertising counterparts have become more belligerent in adopting this strategy to hawk their wares and get their space under the Sun.  So we now get see more and more ads which go against established stereotypes.  As per me, in Indian advertising Balki of Lowe and his team has been one who have used this quite effectively and often. The Havells ads for fans usually go against the grain. Same for some of the “What an Idea, Sirji” commercials for Idea Cellular.  The Jaago Re campaign for Tata Tea also I would say fall in this category of ads.

Few months back, Tanishq the jewellery brand from Tata kicked off debate and interesting conversations in the media with their ad celebrating remarriage of a woman. Watch it here. Again clearly a story which charts new territory, (shows a dusky bride, bride walks along with a small girl to the mandap, the girl is her daughter, the groom carries the small girl along while doing the pheras,…)  sparks a huge debate and eventually garners a lot more interest for the brand. (Incidentally Lowe has been the agency behind all these campaigns!!!)

This recent ad for Brooke Bond Red label tea by Ogilvy India is another example of going against the tide to garner attention. The Hindu-Muslim plot (normally avoided in commercials) in the story is the new twist. There is always this threat of a strong over powering story shadowing the brand itself in ads. Like in this case while I remembered that it was a tea ad, had to drink few cups and wake myself up to recall the brand :( :(  This happens.

Recently, the series of ads for Kaun Banega Crorepati  (KBC) by Leo Burnett India have also been treading this path and have met with a lot of keen interest. The two spots I saw (see here and here) as part of the campaign shatter established stereotypes.  Not that great ads are required to evince interest in a successful show like KBC with Amitabh Bachchan as the anchor. But I guess they also have to sustain the interest after so many seasons.

Coming back to the Airtel Ad conceived by the agency Taproot India, my own view is that it is a sweet ad, executed very well. There is nothing in the ad which goes against woman as the social media debates make us to believe. As per me, there is nothing regressive in a woman cooking and as long as she wants to cook a nice meal and enjoys what she does (like it is shown in this TVC) to demonstrate her love to her hubby, there is nothing wrong.  Same is true if its vice versa – husband cooking at home.  I have to allude here to my earlier post – By hook or Cook!! here :) :)

So want your ads to work big time?  Take a contrarian position, stir up a storm and the idle armchair minds in the social media (me included) will debate and do the needful for you. As far your brand, with all the unpaid buzz around the ad, will laugh its way to the coffers.  That’s some home cooked food for thought :) :) :)

P.S: Now, only if Airtel can make their network as effective as their ads :( :(

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji!!! – Part 3

It may still be a long way to go to reach the iconic status of that ad line – “You have come a long way, baby!!!”  of Virginia Slims cigarette but this line – “What an Idea, Sirji??”  is for sure within India atleast getting there as one of the most memorable ad lines of our times.  And for the campaign itself the silver lining was the use of SMS poll among people by the Aam Admi Party (Now don’t ask me what’s this :) :) ) to check if they should form the Government in Delhi or not. And not surprisingly Idea cellular re-ran their old TVC with a changed voice over – “Dilli mein Sarkar banana chahiye???”  Smart stuff.

 In part 3 of this series –“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea, Sirji?? ,(you can read Part 1 and Part 2 here and here) I talk about few more campaigns which have used media differently and smartly to take their messages across to their target audience.

At the airports these days (Mumbai for sure) it is difficult to miss the branding presence of a new travel portal called Musafir.com with Sachin Tendulkar as its brand ambassador. Instead of plain vanilla panels and standees,.. Musafir has deployed quite a few Mobile charging terminals with their branding ofcourse in vantage points at the airport – a great way to connect with aspirational travelling public.

Musafir,Airport display,122013

On the 26th Dec, 2013, the Times of India newspaper became “Engines of India” thanks to the Half Flap innovation.  The ad for Honda City engines I think hit the bull’s eye with just that one release.

TOI ad,3,25122013

TOI ad,1,25122013

Talking of Times of India and innovation, the other good idea which comes to my mind is of Oral B Toothpaste. On the 6th of Jan, 2014, they reproduced the 1st page of yesteryear TOI paper of 6th Jan 1963 with a half page ad for Oral B toothpaste which said – “You wouldn’t want yesterday’s newspaper. Why would you want yesterday’s toothpaste???” taking a dig at their longstanding archrival Colgate!

gillette

Oflate, I have noticed that PVR Cinemas have become showcase for interesting creativity. In my last post I remember sharing an instance. They have interesting ways of plugging promos of upcoming movies in the movie hall. For example, as part of their package of commercials before the movie, they show clips on maintaining theatre etiquette,… (no cell phones, no smoking,..) I remember when I went to watch a movie in January the film Gunday was about to be released.  The pre-show clips were featuring the Gunday stars – Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor. This doubles up as social messaging as well as promos for the new movies.

But in terms of social messaging, this one by the Mumbai Municipal authorities I think tops the chart. In order to deter people from boarding and alighting from running trains, the authorities used artists dressed up as “Yamaraja” to communicate the perils of such stupid acts to commuters in Railway stations. I am not sure, how many days they did this. But the sheer PR mileage you extract of such ideas is enough to keep this on top of the mind for few days.

churchgatestation-5

Advertising in Cabs or Cabvertising is fusty stuff these days. We see this very commonly for many brands. But what Ambi Pur, a car freshener product did was interesting and is worth mentioning. Apart from using the car freshener in the cabs, which creates an interest among people, they also went one step ahead of selling the product if customer is interested at the end of the ride in the cab itself.  Brands these days are using the sort of time available during a car ride to sample their products as well as even sell like Ambi Pur did.

The recent Loksabha elections indicated that political advertising has come of age in India. With the use of different media and platforms, brands – parties in this case in particular the BJP took political advertising to a completely different level.  Sample this. On the day the BJP manifesto was released, I tweeted a message with #BJPManifesto and lo I get a direct message from Narendra Modi’s handle with a link to the party manifesto!!!  Also among various other media which the party used, I read about the party distributing large “branded” umbrellas to road side vendors,.. to beat the summer heat at Varanasi where Narendra Modi was contesting. That the umbrella is a metaphor for protection was not lost on people I would surmise.

BJP,Umbrella,election season,052014

Can you imagine a FMCG company running a radio station? Well that’s what Hindustan Unilever does in India. The country’s largest consumer goods maker has come up with a free radio-on-demand service to reach out to villagers in remote areas. And it seems its lone channel — Kan Khajura Tesan, or ‘centipede station’ — is already the largest radio station in Bihar in terms of subscribers. This is how it works. Any mobile phone user in Bihar can give a missed call to a specific number to immediately get a return call that will play Kan Khajura Tesan for 15 minutes. Besides a series of entertainment programmes, the channel of course plays advertisements of HUL brands. Apart from reaching the message across of its products, the company also gets to know who is listening which is the missing link in mass media advertising. Kan Khajura Tesan – I think this takes the cake for “What an Idea, Sirji??”

P.S : Talking of Ideas and their impact – One Spelling mistake in the title of the book made it an instant hit helping to sell millions of copies in just few days and the mistaken title was “An idea can change your wife”  :) :)  – What a mistake, Sirji???

By hook or Cook!!!

“For a great marriage, men must cook” – this headline of an article which appeared in ‘The Hindu’ caught my attention. You can read that here. The piece articulates that men must use food and cooking to build strong enduring bonds with their wives for peaceful and mutually fulfilling marriages. It set me thinking. Not that my marriage was wobbling but could do with some elements of surprise I thought. When was the last time I went to the kitchen to cook? If you discount the instances of preparing tea, rustling up dosas or putting together your breakfast cereals, it’s been a while. Really a long while.

My mind flashbacked to the time before marriage when as a bachelor, I did cook. My rendezvous with cooking started while in Mumbai just as I got into my 1st job at Godrej. I lived with my elder brother who was also a bachelor that time and our cooking experiments commenced. Mostly we cooked our own dinners on weekdays and on weekends the lunch. When we felt bored or we got late, we ate outside. The understanding was that whoever reached early will start the preparation like cutting the vegetables and keep the rice ready while the other will join to finish doing the rest of the stuff.  Unlike many would think, cooking was interesting and exciting. Particularly if you end up cooking something which was palatable (when you cook, almost everything is extremely palatable – that’s a different thing :) :) )

Being a South Indian and a Tambram in that, our choice was limited to making the sambhars, rasams and the vegetables.  As a strategy (OMG, isn’t this word the most misused word these days???), we decided that we will keep repeating the same till we perfect it. So I think we must have made rasam for atleast one full week and may be sambhar for the next 10 days :) :).  When we completed 1st quarter of cooking the end results were not bad. We started adventuring to next level of difficulty in the cooking game – I mean more exotic dishes,..  post that. So as self-cooking continued, one started losing weight ( :) ) and became lean and mean.

But from the time marriage happened, it was time for the enthusiastic wife to take over. She was also learning the ropes and it was best for me to keep away from the kitchen completely.  Coming back to the present, when I read the article it struck on me – Why not enter the kitchen again and surprise the wife? Though the wife knew that I was cooking earlier she never got a chance to endure my cooking. So last Saturday morning I grandly announced to the wife that I will cook a full meal that day and that she should just relax. And one important pre-condition was that she should not be seen anywhere close to the kitchen till I finish. (You know otherwise what happens :) ) Though reluctant, she complied.

Since the mission was also to impress the wife, I decided to keep the menu simple with some staple stuff like rasam (yes) and potato podimas (yes ofcourse) and get away easily. Little did I realize that life is not so easy if you are out of touch. I started with keeping the rice in the cooker along with the paruppu (dal) which is needed for the rasam.   As I reached out for the dabbas, I could see many dabbas with different paruppus. Now which is the dal which goes into the rasam was the question. After a round of hinky pinky ponkey and applying bit of logic concluded that it is indeed tuvar dal which is the ingredient. :)

20 mins into boiling the rice in the cooker – there is no sign of the whistle in the cooker. Lessons from Mechanical engineering on what happens when a safety valve malfunctions unnecessarily kept coming up. Did I put the gasket and other fundamental questions arose. After another futile 20 mins. I decided to force open the cooker to see what the heck is going on.  If you have a faint idea of what forcing open a cooker means – you will understand what would have happened. The dal had overflowed, the rice had overflowed and it all resembled a Dal kichdi!!! And the kitchen- remnants of modern art!!! So the next thing was operation clean up (without making much noise ofcourse so that the wife doesn’t realize what’s going on) and a repeat of keeping the rice and dal again to cook. This time took extra care to see that water is not too much and all. After waiting with bated breath for another 10 mins. the whistle blew and “operation rice” went through smoothly.  I did a whistle podu for myself. :) :) Followed then with making the potato vegetable and rasam. Having completely forgotten the measurements of salt, masala,.. several trials and more errors ensued. Fortunately no much adventure in making the rasam and the potato vegetable.  I was almost done.

After serving all what I rustled up, it was judgment time. The rice had to be cooked twice. While the 1st time suffered due to excess water, the second time was less of water and hence was bit Vethu Vethu (dry).  The rasam was fine though it could have done with more rasam powder and be spicier. The potato vegetable was extra salty.  But for these “small” hiccups the experience was worth it!!! The daughter surprisingly found it tasty and ate the food without much ado. The wife was more generous and said it was not bad at all.  And she said, “You are cooking really well, why don’t you do this every Saturday???”

Oh man, that author’s prediction was really working :) :)

cook

Toon Courtesy: The Hindu

Is Kerala “God’s Own Country”???

Thanks to a family wedding in Trivandrum recently, got the opportunity to take a short vacation break at Kerala. Yet again. With both my parents hailing from Kottayam a district in Central Kerala, I have lost the count of times we have holidayed in God’s Own Country. As a child, our annual vacations would begin and end with sojourns to Kottayam. Throw in atleast one annual visit for some family occasion, Annual Sabarimala trip, 2-3 visits a year to Kerala was a given. That was till I got busy chasing entry to a “professional” course. After that the frequency of visits reduced. But the craving to visit hasn’t.

The initial visits to Kerala were long before it became “the Kerala” of today. It was just one’s own country. Beautiful, Green and generally serene.  The swaying coconut palms, photogenic countryside, colourful Kathakali,… were all there but we were never wide-eyed by those that time, as we are today!!! Swimming in the river, visit to coconut groves, sipping of tender coconuts, ride in the country boat, visit to rubber estates, seeing Kathakali performances in the night, feeding elephants in the house, watching highly traditional rituals in the temple,…,.. were all but quite the usual stuff we did year after year during annual vacations.

GOK

Somewhere in the late 90’s and the turn of this century was when the word Kerala started getting a new dimension. Coincidentally that was the time when my visits reduced in frequency. Am not sure which of these made a difference. Was it the superbly executed marketing campaign positioning Kerala as “God’s Own Country? Or was it Arundati Roy’s Booker winner –‘God of small thingsset in a small place called Aymanam in Kottayam that kick started the romanticism with Kerala? Nobody knows or may be God only knows  :)  The next we hear was that Kerala has been ranked among the top 10 “Paradises on Earth“ by National Geographic Traveller! After this the Gods haven’t stopped smiling on their own country. Tourists by the millions have been ever since checking-in to the state – both Desi and the foreigner types. The small strips of waterways extending from the sea to the land became the “beautiful backwaters of Kerala”, the country boat which was perched from the roof and idling in everyone’s house transformed into a rustic Vallam (boat) and started fetching money in thousands if you are open to parting the same to hotels and travel companies. Spices like pepper, cardamom,..,… which were grown in the backyard became “Exotic products from the Spice village”!!!

Is Kerala really God’s Own Country? This question has been haunting me for quite some time now.  The last few visits to the state have helped in unravelling the answer to the question.

First up, am yet to locate another place with smaller confines like Kerala with sea on one side, hill stations on the other, a vast of green forest cover in between, water ways which are calm and landspaces which are clean. Having said that even in India, it’s not just Kerala which has been blessed with the bounty of Nature. There are quite a few other states as well. For example, Kerala’s immediate neighbour Karnataka immediately springs to my mind. But no other place has been able to leverage what it has, better than Kerala , “Gujarat’s Khushboo” and “Ajab Gajab Madhya Pradesh” notwithstanding!!!  Having visited quite a few other states in India I can vouch that Kerala is the most tourist friendly state in the country.

For a state with low or no manufacturing activity to speak of, the spurt in tourism came as God’s own blessing. May be for that reason, Keralites imbibed tourism as a possible panacea to joblessness in the state with little production activity. Fortunately tourism being a service industry has been spared of the ills of trade unionism atleast as I write this. The near complete literacy and more than that being a highly NRI populated state, the awareness levels on cleanliness and environment are very high. Tourism in Kerala is well-organized and touts few. Unlike the neighboring Tamilnadu where people have abhorred Hindi as a language for long, Kerala never did that. So the locals manage to speak in Hindi with visitors from the North though in highly accented version.  Plastic free zones are indeed free of plastics. Well, almost.

So gradually Kerala has started upselling itself from a plain vanilla tourist destination to panoply of value added offerings. Ecotourism, Ayurveda tourism, Spiritual tourism, Plantation tourism, Elephant tourism, Goodness tourism… ,.. and what have you.  In a product like tourist state most important is the experience of the visitor and the subsequent word of mouth or in today’s lingo viral communication.  Who is the brand ambassador for “Apple’s I phone”?? Is it a Bollywood actor? Cricketer? Nope. It’s you and me. A great experiential product sells by positive word of mouth of its users. So has been Kerala. Check this thumbs up from CNN!!!

So the answer to that question – Is Kerala really God’s Own Country” could very well be a big YES!!! If you have not visited, plan one asap. No, I am not paid for writing this!!!

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Postscript : The other thing for which Kerala is popular other than tourism are the “Mallu jokes” which is slowly threatening to beat the “Sardar jokes” which have been ruling the party circuit for long. Zimbly because Mallu jokes are vary Zimble, fandastic and vary funny and Goad’s Own Gontry is the best :) :) :)

Also watch – “Water Colour by God” – ad film by ace cinematographer Santosh Sivan

 

Will Metro in Mumbai bring in more “Will”???

The newspaper of today fluttering in front of me announces the flagging of Metro Rail in Mumbai today and as I key these words, it would have been flagged off, some last minute posturing between the Govt. and Reliance over the fares notwithstanding. Reliance was the successful private bidder for this project which was supposed to be on PPP (Public Private Partnership) model. Tomorrow in Mumbai local trains and near water coolers in offices many will be singing paeans to the launch of the Mumbai Metro. Real estate brokers who have been jacking up the rates of properties along the Metro line for 10 years now claiming ‘Metro Aaraha Hai’( like they have been doing in Navi Mumbai showing picture of one empty land in Panvel with a board which says “Site for New International Airport”) will now say that their promise has been kept!!! Not to mention of the viral pictures, videos and messages which will “forward” on WhatsApp, FB,..!!! Just that the project which was an absolute must for a city like Mumbai has ambled in some 20 years late.

MMetro

If at all if there was any city in India which needed a Metro in the first place, it was Mumbai. For years the suburban rail network built by the British has been literally carrying the commute burden of the Mumbaikars without a break down as efficiently as possible. Though it was obvious that it was bursting at its seams, the administration was only working on putting bandages here and there and flogging the same without seriously thinking of an alternative. Kolkata surprisingly with Communists at its helm for more than 3 decades implemented the Metro 1st in India. With the support of Soviet specialists (not surprisingly) and inspired by the idea of Public investments in infrastructure, Kolkata went ahead with the Metro and commissioned the same as early as in 1984, 10- 12 years after laying the foundation. Delhi was the next in line to adopt the Metro Rail. Delhi ofcourse had 2 things going in its favour. The Common Wealth Games which Delhi hosted and the leadership of Mr. E. Sreedharan (Now called the Metroman). Both these ensured that Delhi Metro was on track in record time. Mumbai was not blessed with either. In Mumbai when you really want something to happen, the whole political world conspires to delay it!!! Is this city Paul Coelho’s nemesis???

30 years after it was conceived and 10 years after its Bhumi Pujan, finally the day dawned for commissioning the Metro in Mumbai. And this is true for every infrastructure project in Mumbai. I remember the ‘Vikhroli Jogeswari Link Road’ project a crucial one linking the eastern and western suburbs of Mumbai started when I joined my last company in 2000. It got completed in 2011 the year I left that company. 11 years to complete a Road project??? During those 11 years as I was passing by that road day in and day out suffering from long traffic snarls due to “Work in slow progress”, I was convinced that the much needed political will needed in ensuring fast implementation was missing among the Mumbai rulers. And this I would say is true cutting across all political parties which have been in power in the state in the last 50 years.

Here I must mention with abundant adoration the work and the difference made by one T.Chandrasekhar an IAS officer who as Municipal Commissioner of Thane in the late 90’s changed the face of Thane in 3 years. Within months after he took over, he cleared illegal slums and hawkers and launched a massive road widening and beautification drive. He had the backing of the political class till the time he didn’t touch their vested interests. Trouble started brewing when he started acting on illegal restaurants, encroachments and buildings. The Municipal councilors passed a resolution to sack him but eventually backed off when public showed solidarity behind him and Bal Thackeray the late Shiv Sena Chief supported him in his endeavour.  As part of his master plan Chandrasekhar had in fact started work on a Metro Rail project within Thane. Unfortunately like all good things in this country Thane’s tryst with better destiny ended when he was “promoted” and transferred to Nagpur. The Thane Metro dream ended then. He came back to Mumbai years later and was made responsible for Infrastructure projects. But frustrated by lack of support and political interference he resigned from IAS and is now a potential AAP candidate :) In the mean-time Mumbai continued to suffer. Its clear that if there is political will a transformation is possible.

Whether it is Express highways, a decent mass public transport system or world class airport Mumbai has been 20-25 years behind in getting them. Few months back as Mumbaikars we were lucky to get a world class International airport terminal. All along we had a bus stand masquerading as an airport. As I mentioned, may be 20 years late. Today has been the day of the Metro. And by the time the 3 phases of the Metro will be completed and it begins to make a difference to commuting public I guess it will be another 10 years away.

With India in the throes of change after the recently held General Elections one can say with certitude that people have voted for development and positive change. One hopes that the administrators of Mumbai also will get the message and work towards making Mumbai a better place to live. “We will make Mumbai a Shanghai” – this baloney has been mouthed by the rulers for long. The moot question is whether there is enough stock of “will” for the same??

Ache Din Aa gaye???

Mumbai Metro pic

X: Metro came to Mumbai but it came so late!!

Y: Be happy. It atleast came late not after you became Late !!!

When “Kanjivaram” meets “Patiala”!!!

‘2 States’ is a recently released movie from Karan Johar’s stable which soon went on to be a part of the hallowed 100 crore club.  In this movie which is incidentally based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel with the same name, the hero – a Punjabi falls in love with a Tambrahm girl. The movie goes on to show the struggles involved in marriage of the two 1800 different cultures before the actual marriage of the 2 individuals. It is understandable that in such a marriage involving 2 different cultures, there is a voluntary and involuntary fusion of rites, practices and ‘rasams’ (not be confused with Sambhar/Rasam 😉 ) in the marriage ceremony.

Still reeling under the hangover of 2 Tambrahm weddings which I was part of recently, which actually DID NOT involve “2 states”, the change I saw was interesting. This post is not about the movie ‘2 States’ but the changes in the marriage scene seen oflate. Before I get down to explaining that, a bit of backgrounder is in order.

Typical Tambrahm weddings were quiet, staid affairs where

  • Serious mamas meet their more serious counterparts and use the opportunity to discuss world affairs and enhance their knowledge 😄
  • Enthusiastic mamis use the opportunity to exhibit their latest Kanjivarams (silk sarees for the uninitiated) and also expose their precious yellow metal jewelry to sunlight (which are otherwise confined to the dark interiors of Bank lockers) 😄 😄
  • Studious Ambis (Boys who are in schools/colleges and yet to be coronated as mamas) compare notes with their clan on the latest ranking of US Universities/B Schools and the like,.. 😄
  • Ponna poranthava (commonly known as PYTs) keep shuttling between here and there in the hall to garner attention
  • There is no official ‘Mehndi’ ceremony and all and the bride to be gets her work done in a parlour silently
  • The only sartorial indulgence from the men’s camp would be “bush shirt along with new Veshti”
  • Meal after meal in the 2 day marriage affair will be served in banana leaf with variations limited to the Payasam( Kheer) or the vegetable used in the Sambhar in the different meals (Brinjal Sambhar in the morning, Carrot/Potato one in the afternoon and again Brinjal for dinner) 😞
  • Noise levels are low except for the Nadaswaram considered a “Mangala Vadyam” which is played normally in functions, temples,.. in the South India. During key instances in the wedding like “Muhurtam”,.. the vadyars (priests) in the stage signal with their hands to increase the tempo and play loudly. Otherwise the music is pleasant and indeed soothing.
  • The Reception function is also quite a quiet affair where on the one side an artist (usually an emerging one) plays the flute or violin (Carnatic music mostly) and on the other side people queue up to wish the couple and pose for the customary photo-op
  • In general no major excitement in the events except for
    • ‘Malai mathu’ (Garlands Exchange) ritual where from both sides folks try to prevent the bride and groom from exchanging garlands easily. There are smiles and laughter all around from elders knowing very well that this will be last opportunity for one-upmanship for the groom in life 😉 😉
Malai Mathu ceremony

Malai Mathu ceremony

  • Or ‘Nalungu’ ritual after the wedding which is also a game of one-upmanship. Again, elders push the groom to have maximum fun as possible. Can you imagine what will happen if he tries to break a papad on his wife’s head the next day or few days later??? Hell hath no fury like a woman whose hair is disturbed 😠 😠 😠
Nalungu ceremony

Nalungu ceremony

In short, for the ever conservative, serious Tambrahm community marriages were occasions to meet and catch up with short moments of excitement here and there. That’s all.

But these have become passé.

Today even Tambrahm (could be others also) marriages are getting “obese” and are aspiring to be of “the Big Fat Punjabi Wedding” class. So even in a regular Tambrahm wedding don’t be surprised if Kanjivaram silk saree meets a Patiala suit. These days men turn up mostly in designer Kurtas, girls in Lehenga choli and ladies in backless! If not a very elaborate ‘Mehndi’ ceremony as yet, applying mehndi and preparing for the wedding is no more a dull affair for the bride to be. Choru(Rice) and Sambar are being replaced by Chole Batura,… and buffet fare atleast the previous day. At the reception, city’s popular DJs belt top of the pop numbers to which young and the old alike sway, croon and shake their hips and legs. Soon one can expect choreographed renditions of dance numbers I think. These changes have not happened overnight but have been doing the rounds gradually over the last few years. But today the trend is stark.

The credit for this transformation in the marriage scene must go to Bollywood and people like Karan Johar who in film after film thrust in a “Punjabi Wedding Song” and made this an aspirational affair for others. So don’t be surprised if soon the “Patiala peg” also mixes with the “Filter Kaapi”

Sundari Neeyum Sundaran Nyanum Chernirunthaal,….. Shava Shava!!!

P.S : While on this, please do read my earlier take on “Mamas” – http://wp.me/p1dZc2-jI

Images Courtesy :www.pinterest.com