Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Khare Master - A book review

I honestly do not know why I picked this book at the library. It had a rather eerie cover. The pages were yellow and the text in small print.

I found it rather difficult at first to proceed. But as the book progressed it held my interest. Originally written in Marathi, it is set in the early 1900. A story of a middle class Maharashtrian family. It covers the relationship between parents and their children, with spouse, with friends. Aspects of the national movement, conversions ( yes, even then!), conflicts and loneliness.

The book written by Malati Bedekar under the pen name Vibhavari Shirurkar, when she was 88, is a semibiographical account of her father, Anantrao Khare. A man from a small village of Guhargar, who was so forward thinking for one of his time or perhaps even today.

Kharemaster left his village when he was 14 and came to Bombay, as it was known then, to study art. Here he came in contact with Raosaheb Rege, who realised that this young boy was not like any ordinary village lad . Raosaheb also taught his daughter at home, because he believed that women must expand their role beyond the rolling pin and sharpen their intellectual skills. This seemed to have a lasting effect on the young Khare.

When there was a plague epidemic in Bombay, he left for Godnadi where he was an art teacher at a local missionary school. His first two children were daughters, but this did not bother Kharemaster at all, and on the other hand - he vowed to educate them.

There were times of inner conflict for Kharemaster. He supported the cause of independence but at the same time had to work for a school run by the British. He had several mouths to feed and realised he had no alternative but to continue his job and earn to support the family He felt he was a coward in many ways, but his friend Deshpandemaster said that he should stop thinking on those lines, ‘We are all a little scared inside. Even a wrestler has to start exercising slowly and build his muscles up gradually. It’s the same thing with courage. Slowly one faces more and more difficult situations and bravery becomes second nature. Without your knowing it, that’s exactly what you‟ve been doing. When you’re convinced something is right, haven’t you been following the dictates of your conscience without worrying about what anyone says or feels?’

He ultimately decided to limit the reform to his house and strenghtened his resolve to educate his children. When he felt the teachers at the girls school were not competent, he sent his daughters to a boys school… something that was not done. During famine, he got into milk business, which was unheard of …considering that they belonged to the Brahmin community. But it atleast ensured that there was milk at home and excess was sold to the villagers.

As he sent the children away from home for further education, the author writes .. that her father did not realize then, that he had planted the seeds of his future loneliness.

The children were engrossed in their own lives, and though they acknowledged his presence and perhaps, loved and respected him, he felt communication had been lost . It was ironical that he had educated his children, and yet felt inadequate and believed he was a source of embarassment for them and their friends as he was not educated! He was also disillusioned when his son, who had become an engineer, had to bribe to earn a contract. He was very disturbed. Why had values changed?

It is an engrossing book. And each one will relate to it in their own way. It will remind you, perhaps of real-life stories narrated by parents and grandparents. I found some kind soul had uploaded the book and if the review has interested you, read it here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Being Young: Growing Old

I never thought about this before. And it is not about looks. Incidentally, I must admit that I was lured into hunting for the product which shows the not- so- young glamorous thing advertising for a brand of anti-wrinkle cream. I went looking for it at the store. One look at the price tag of the tiny bottle ( it did not look so small in the ad!) had me convinced about the need to age gracefully.

My thoughts are about being young, younger and youngest. It is fine when you are young – as by the number that you fill as age in various forms. Between the ages of 0-12, that may mean being pampered ( a wee bit I must admit), bullied ( it does happen all the time) or spoilt ( no, I never was – my brother might debate about that). But the youngest by law of nature does grow old too. Now, that is the subject of this post.

As the kids grow and leave home, you cannot look around for someone to answer the door, the phone, the small errands. It takes more than a little effort. And consider family outings. Especially the last one. Two in the 50s , two in the 60s and two approaching 80s. Not that I mind getting up while an elder (relatively…) walks in, or offering to help clear the table. This comes naturally and ungrudgingly. On the positive side, some pampering does happen here too!

But it was not easy when we went out in a six seater van. Six seats – the seating by itself comfortable and not a problem. Getting in…Oh, that was! … ‘the youngest’ had to balance on this tiny projected piece of metal that had to pass off as a step, double up to avoid receiving a nasty bump on the head, all in wedding finery. Now, that WAS difficult. And one hoped the ride continued forever. As getting out was even tougher.

Phew! It then dawned on me that being young(er) as you age is difficult and demanding. I’m sure Bryan Adam’s did not even remotely think of my predicament. But, I might as well resign to being ‘ 18 till I die’

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Jer Mahal - Glimpses of Mumbai - Part - II

I took this picture as we were driving past (so I just got this portion ) because it really looked quaint and reminded me of the old Bombay.  It was only later when I had downloaded the images and examined them a little closely that I saw the only board that I could make out - Kashmir Hotel - which I googled, more to find out the locality and a little more about the place.  Imagine my surprise when I identified it as Jer Mahal, classified as a Grade III structure under the Heritage Rules in Mumbai. 

Jer Mahal is a chawl system of (five) buildings, around 120 years old, built with the sole purpose of providing cheap accommodation to those who came to work in Mumbai.  Located along Girgaum Street on one side and Kalbadevi on the other it showcases both the Indian vernacular and the European style of architecture.   Heritage III buildings are considered to be of importance to the townscape and add to the character of a locality. The fa├žade of the building also cannot be tampered with.

The site - hopes to involve the young to preserve the heritage.  The organisation believes that  there  is a great possibility that every old building you see anywhere has a story to tell. There is so much in our arts, crafts, structures, monuments that they feel that we can learn from this heritage to build on our future.

They plan  to identify architecture units / sites and monuments.  After their research of the site, clean up pictures and show how the place can be revived and preserved.  It hopes to appeal to the occupants of these buildings, and approach corporate houses and organisations to help them in their endeavour.

Their plans for the Jer Mahal is to look like this - 
They believe that the building and the surroundings can be cleaned and the architectural beauty be restored.

It would be no easy task. BMC permission, legal help in relocating the tenants, architectural help for restoring the structure and of course funds.

The BMC permission would probably be the toughest hurdle.  Around two years ago, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority prepared a fresh list of heritage structures in the city. According to the revised lists, Jer Mahal is to be re-designated as a Grade-II structure. The revised list has been submitted to the government for notification. The notification is yet to see the light. And by not doing so, the government according to Conservation architect Abha Narain Lambah is giving a signal to developers to destroy heritage buildings. Moving the building to Grade-II, could be the only way to save the Jer Mahal.

I hope the conservationists have their way.  The building caught my eye in the otherwise crowded area. With most old buildings giving way to ugly, unplanned concrete structures, the city is fast losing its charm.

I really do hope to see the Jer Mahal in my future visits to the city.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The 4th Idiot

Did you watch the movie - The 3 Idiots ?  You probably did . And were you  the 4th idiot ?  Don't be offended - but you could have been one - if you were the 'movie hogger' ,  and be assured not the only one - if you had bought yourself the nachos, the rich cheesy dip, the heavily buttered popcorn, the fizzy drink, the brownie etc etc. As the article in The Mint states – there is nothing regular about the servings at the multiplex. They are all huge tubs or huge glasses of cola, much more than what one can consume.

The scenario - You probably left home two hours before the movie. Did a bit of window shopping or walked into stores, that you have to essentially pass, to reach your destination. And then made to wait outside the movie hall for atleast twenty minutes, where the waft from the food court is hard to resist. A little snack before making your way in seems only right! Half way through the movie, you try and resist the urge to snack, more because the thought of queuing up and ordering food is not quite appealing… but then you succumb when the attendant walks up to your seat to take your order. And probably a wise thing too, after all your neighbour has just come in with his huge tub of popcorn, and is munching loudly in your ear.

All that food - so satisfying - and when you walk out three hours later, your wallet would be the only thing lighter. The extra butter, the fried foods, the empty calories would stay with you a lot longer than you think. A large tub of butter popcorn gives you as many as 1,000 calories, 78g of fat, of which 45g is saturated, cholesterol- generating type of fat, and a medium cola tumbler (450ml approx.) has about 180 calories, i.e., 12 teaspoons of sugar - when all you need is 3 teaspoons for the whole day!

It is hard to avoid the snacking when all around you is FOOD.  Huge giant sized posters of food, the wonderful aroma of delicacies, and the sight of people looking visibly content munching away to glory.  But there are ways out, says the article in Mint. 
Easier said than done - but worth giving it a try - do not stay hungry the three hours of movie watching. This can lead to a binge attack. The trick is to eat a healthy, hearty meal before you leave. Avoid eating at the venue ( if you are a regular movie goer) – so that the emotional trigger for food does not set in the minute you walk in. If you must, then eat only during the interval. Cut down the cheese and butter toppings.  Share the tub. If you find that very difficult, have a salad before you leave home, so that you can indulge on the popcorn ( without the butter of course).

Food courts probably are healthy for the multiplex finances, but definitely not for you. So eat wisely and avoid the mindless munching at the movie.

A little bit of restraint and a whole lot of will power for sure!

Avoid being the 4th idiot !

picture source - Garfield -

Monday, February 1, 2010

Haji Ali Dargah - Glimpses of Mumbai Part I

Haji Ali is a mosque and a dargah, constructed in 1431, and is located on an islet off the coast in Mumbai.  I had gone to attend a nephew's marriage and was lucky to have stayed where I had a good view of the dargah. 

The day was clear except for a slight mist ( or was it pollution - since it was almost past 10 in the morning). 

This was as the sun was setting and the water was receding too.

 And there were patterns on the shore as the water receded and the reflection of the setting sun made a beautiful sight.

I did want to visit the shrine but could not for lack of time and company.  But then I did have my fill of the beautiful scene.
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