Monday 28 September 2015

European Day of Languages - Enthralling Performance

I got an invitation to attend the European Day of Languages (EDL) held on 26 September 2015 at the Cyber Hub, Gurgaon. 

Karim Ellaboudi, Matteo Fabroni, Vasundhra, Marcello Allulli & Saurabh Suman at EDL

Initially when I went there I was a bit disappointed as the programme was not well organised and the information on the schedule of events was sketchy. But as the programme progressed we were enthralled by performers from various countries and organisations. The programme was the courtesy of the European Union.

First performance was a Tango performed by the two performers (as they say it takes two to Tango) from the Instituto Cervantes which was very sensual. After their performance they did an impromptu dance lesson for the audience and several couples joined on the stage. Here is a small video of the Tango-

It takes two to Tango

This was followed by a brilliant Opera performance by the Neemrana Music Foundation. All the three girls were superb in their performance. I was surprised that such talent exist in India in the field of Opera singing. Here I am presenting a small video of the one of the performers.

Opera by the Neemrana Music Foundation

There was also Latin music where one of the instruments was Mexican but looked like the long horn like Tibetan instrument. It also sounded like that.

Latin Music at the European Day of Languages

The best performance of the day was the performance by Vasundhra Vidalur. First she sang couple of songs accompanied by Karim Ellaboudi on Piano. Later she was also joined by Marcello Allulli on Saxophone, Matteo Fraboni on drums and Bass by Saurabh Suman. She has an amazing voice and I wonder how come I have not heard her before. Her Jazz and Blues are really enthralling. It is a pity that as the programme was not publicised well and as her performance was at the end several people had left before her performance started. Watch a small video of their performance-

Vasundhra and group performing at the EDL

There should be more such programmes so that we can listen to the languages and see dance and culture of countries across the world.

Also read:
Sufi Music by Sabri Brothers
Wise Guys and the Maharaj Trio for the Butterflies
Sufi Dervish Dance

Saturday 19 September 2015

My Stay at Palladium Hotel, Mumbai

During a recent trip to Mumbai (Bombay) I stayed at the Palladium Hotel.

The grand lobby of the Palladium Hotel Mumbai

My flight from Delhi was in the morning and I reached the Chattrapati Shivaji Airport around 1130. As the trip was arranged by the Tourism Authority of Thailand I was picked up by them and brought to the Palladium in Lower Parel. The journey took more than an hour as this was a peak traffic time and we were traversing some of the busiest routes of the city. 

Modern-art: lobby of the Palladium Mumbai

The first surprise I got there was that the reception lobby was not on the ground but on the 9th floor. After doing the check-in which was a done by the courteous staff I was given the room key-card which also is used to operate the lifts and one can go only to the lobby, ground floor and to your own floor with the key card. Now majority of the new hotels across the world are using this security feature in the hotels. A slight annoying feature was that one has to change the lift at the ninth floor if your room is above that. As the first event for which I had gone was about to start (in the hotel itself on the 8th floor which is used for conventions) I quickly took a shower as there was no time for a bath despite the very inviting bathtub! 

My room at Palladium Hotel, Mumbai

It was only after the event got over that I was able to observe the amenities in the room. I had a huge double bed with button controlled curtains, ample supply of coffee, tea and water, bowl of fruits and a mini bar stocked with chocolates and drinks etc. 

View at dusk of Worli, Haji Ali, Arabian Sea from rooftop bar of Palladium Hotel

But the best was the views I got from the room as well as when I went to their rooftop bar Asilo. In one sweep you can see all the high rises of Worli, the Mahalaxmi Race course, the Haji Ali Dargah and the Arabian Sea itself!

View of Bombay at night from the Palladium Hotel

What I was really impressed with was their spread of breakfast especially the English breakfast and the black coffee. They also had a spread of Indian breakfast including a whole section of South-Indian section.

Note: From 1st September 2015 the hotel has been renamed as The St. Regis Mumbai.

Also Read:
Places to visit in Mumbai: The Haji Ali Dargah

Saturday 12 September 2015

Poster-Art and Political Activism in JNU, Delhi

Posters in JNU

Artistic, eye-catching and thought-provoking political posters are an intrinsic part of the culture of Jawaharlal Nehru University. Whether it is Marxism or Gandhiism, Women’s Rights or Dalit Rights, Imperialism or Casteism, the student community in JNU has always been politically active and views are expressed through huge, colourful posters with interesting slogans. “Study and Struggle” is one of the oldest slogans that still reverberates through the hostels, schools and streets of JNU. It epitomises the spirit of studies that are not divorced from society and its problems. The posters make you think, they create awareness and above all, they reflect an intellectual spirit, which should be the aim of any university.

Picasso in JNU!

For obvious reasons, there have been a lot of posters lately on women’s emancipation. Here is one such poster, pasted on the wall of School of Arts and Aesthetics which draws on the famous painting by Pablo Picasso Le Bordel d’ Avignon (The Brothel of Avignon, 1907). It depicts five nude prostitutes in a group, looking not defeated but confrontational, as if they were ready to take on the society. Picasso’s painting caused a scandal in turn-of-the-century Europe and he had to hide it in his studio for more than a decade. The painting is, as I see it, a metaphor for women with courage. JNU has healthy gender relations compared to rest of India. Girl students can roam around in the campus late at night. This is unthinkable in any other university of India.

Anti-establishment posters in JNU

This poster caricatures State sponsored censorship in Indian Cinema. On the left, the poster lampoons the statement of the Chief of the ICHR in praise of the Caste System in India.

Che in JNU!

Che Guevara, the face of Cuban Revolution, now appropriated by T-Shirt grafittis because of his handsome looks, is a favourite with some left-leaning political parties in JNU.

Poster-art at JNU

The poster above criticizes Caste System with the mythical story of the low-caste Eklavya, who gave his thumb to the high caste Guru in the epic Mahabharat. The poster below it makes fun of the contemporary Central Government in India.

I was not politically aligned to any party in JNU during my student days but the posters always ignited a thought process.

Also read:
Travelling through Alma Mater, JNU

Tuesday 8 September 2015

Patalpuri Gurudwara in Kiratpur Sahib, Punjab

Built on the banks of Sutlej river and the foothills of Shivalik range is the beautiful and historic Gurudwara of Patalpuri in Kiratpur Sahib, a small religious town in the Ropar (or Roopnagar) district of Punjab.

Patalpuri Gurudwara, Kiratpur

Kiratpur was established by the 6th Sikh Guru Hargobind Singh. Another famous Gurudwara nearby is Anandpur Sahib or Keshgarh Sahib, 10 km away (considered as the second most important place for the Sikhs as it is the birthplace of the Khalsa).

The Darbar Sahib at Patalpuri Gurudwara, Kiratpur

The significance of Kiratpur’s Patalpuri Gurudwara lies in the fact that Sikhs come here to immerse the ashes of their loved ones and it is not uncommon for the Sikhs living abroad also to come here to immerse the ashes. Two of the Sikh Gurus – Guru Hargobind and Guru Har Rai have been cremated here.

The Sarovar at the Patalpuri Gurudwara, Kiratpur

The Gurudwara, like most Gurudwaras, is made of white marble and shimmers in the sun. Next to the Darbar Hall there is a Langar Hall. There is a sarovar, a big sacred water pond where the pilgrims can take a holy dip.

Sutlej waters at Patalpuri Gurudwara

The water from the Sutlej main river flows next to the Gurdwara by means of a canal and the water is clean. There is also a footbridge made for persons to go across.

The footbridge over the Sutlej

One problem that people face is that they have to climb 15-20 steps which is problematic for the old and the handicapped. The management should make a ramp.
Another view of the Patalpuri Gurudwara

There are no flights to Kiratpur. Nearest point is Chandigarh from where it is about 90 km and one can take either a Punjab Roadways bus or hire a cab. From Delhi it takes about seven hours by car to cover the distance of about 300 km.

As kiratpur is near the foothills of the Himalayas, it can also be made a base for further explorations into the mountains to places like Palampur, Dharamshal, Mandi, Manali and further.

Also Read:
The Unique Gurudwara at Sussaan
Keshgarh Sahib

Thursday 3 September 2015

Travelling through Alma Mater, JNU

After several years I got a chance to visit, rather revisit JNU, my alma mater. It is hard for an outsider to think of JNU, a 1000 acre campus, as part of the congested capital city. There are plenty of open spaces, even wild, practically untouched spaces.

The various JNU school buildings in the foreground with Vasant Kunj in the background

The Aravali hill on which JNU is located, is lush green, especially in monsoons. Despite many new university buildings coming up in the past few years, the forest-like impression persists and there is still a lot of undergrowth.

The JNU Library

The green cover and the buildings are integrated together in such a way that they blend into each other.

Purvanchal & Mahanadi hostels in the foreground with Qutub Minar in the background

The aerial shots from the top floor (10th floor) of the university central library show a dense green cover. The Mehrauli area in general and Qutub Minar in particular is clearly visible.

Qutub Minar & Alai Minar seen from JNU

The Alai Minar, the unfinished Qutub Minar like structure which Alauddin Khilji planned to build two times higher than Qutub Minar is also visible.

Adham Khan's tomb in Mehrauli seen from JNU

The Adham Khan’s tomb in the Mehrauli area is also clearly visible from the JNU.

NII, Munirka in the foreground and Lotus Temple in the background as seen from JNU

On a clear day, one can even see the Lotus Temple and Nehru Place which are several km away. If you observe the photo carefully you can see the lotus temple in the far centre. Only when I saw the photo at leisure on the laptop, I realised that the photo captures the temple.

The new manicured look of JNU campus

Fortunately, the nature is allowed to be, although there seem to be attempts here-and-there to give it a manicured lawn look with potted plants and hedges that, in my view, looks out of place with the overall grandeur of undergrowth and huge trees.

The campus is ideal for walking, jogging and cycling. JNU is a paradise for bird-watchers. Peacocks are common. Some JNU residents swear that they have seen owls and snakes. Wolfs and Nilgais (Asian Antelope or Blue Bull) are not exactly uncommon. Caves exploration and rock-climbing is another activity which I indulged in during my student days here.

Parthsarthi Rocks, JNU

And how can I complete this post without mentioning Parthasarathi Rocks (named after the first VC of JNU). It is the highest natural vantage point in JNU and functions as an open auditorium and venue for various late-night parties. One can sit and view the beautiful sunsets from here.