Saturday, September 30, 2006

Photos along the D & R Canal

I love early fall, a welcome respite from the hot and humid summer! Of course it is also the harbinger of the dreary certainty, that is winter.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Reminiscing Navaratri

Navaratri, which means nine nights in Sanskrit, is a Hindu festival of worship and dance. The nine days are devoted to the worship of the Supreme Goddess. This culminates on the tenth day with Vijayadashami or Dassera. This year Dassera will fall on October 2, 2006. For more information please check

This morning I was recollecting how I spent Navaratri as a little girl. Typically Garba and Dandiya Raas, originating from Gujarat are associated with Navaratri, which I might add are pretty well known. I thought I might write about how Maharashtrians celebrate Navaratri. My sisters and I grew up in a fairly cosmopolitan environment and therefore had friends who weren’t of the same faith or even the same community as us. My mother however used to organize “Bhondala” for all our friends to teach us, her daughters, about our own Maharashtrian culture.

My mother would make some interesting sweets and snacks for us. Each girl got along with her a sweet or snack made by her mother. So it was like a potluck party. An elephant was drawn at the center using rice flour and we held hands and formed a circle around it. We would perform a semi-dance around the circle singing the customary songs. Of course then we would lose our enthusiasm and sing other popular songs. The evening would culminate with regaling each other with stories and childish gossips from school, not to mention wicked impressions of our teachers! There are nine songs for the nine days. The other Maharashtrian families in our neighborhood would invite us on the remaining days. The fun part of this was that there were no divisive factors like religion, community etc. Our non-Hindu friends would celebrate with us.

I was trying to recollect the songs but couldn’t remember all of them. I did a Google search and found a website devoted to those songs. The URL is .

I also remember “kumarika poojan,” which means basically worshipping the aspect of Goddess Durga in young (prepubescent) girls. One of my mother’s friends would invite my sisters and me and her little nieces. I am not sure if these customs are still prevalent in Maharashtra.

I was doing online research and came upon this webpage, , which described the folk music and dances pertaining to the Deccan region.

Since Navaratri always clashed with my mid- term exams I have absolutely no memories associated with it during my later school and college years. I do however remember my dear friend from architecture school who was a complete Dandiya Raas fiend. It didn’t matter to her that she had deadlines for assignments or even exams; she never missed going every night for Dandiya. Despite that she still managed to excel in school! Goddess Durga sure loved her a lot!

Saturday is Ashtami (eight day of Navaratri), which is very special to me. My nephew, who is the apple of my eye, was born on that day thirteen years ago. As per the Hindu calendar he will be thirteen this Saturday. I am sure he reads my blog therefore here is wishing him a very Happy Birthday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Biking along the D & R Canal

We started biking again after a long gap. This summer sucked weather wise and this year we could not bike as much as we have done in the past. Last weekend we set out with our bikes on the trails after lunch. Since we had eaten, we did not take anything to snack on (rather neither of us remembered to carry snacks). Fortunately we did not forget to take water and Gatorade! Anyway after about 10 miles we both started feeling hungry. The worse thing is that if you are hungry and there is nothing to munch on, you feel even hungrier. We were riding our bikes on the towpath along the Delaware and Raritan (D & R) canal. Usually we do carry sandwiches, smoothies and fruits and do not really notice the fact that there aren’t any places by the canal that one can go and snack like a small deli or a coffee place in the towns that we pass through. These are essentially suburban towns. We miss the ubiquitous chai wallah and vada pav wallah in Bombay. After this experience, I am certain that we will never forget to carry food with us! When we got back to our car we were so famished.

We love riding our bikes on the trails along the D & R canal. You will always see people jogging, fishing, and walking their dogs and sometimes see people riding horses as well. Anyway what is with people and their dogs? There is a sign on the gates, which clearly states that dogs must be on a leash. I really get annoyed when people do not have their dogs on the leash.

Sometime back when we were riding on the trails, this one jogger had his Rottweiler running loose. From a distance I saw the dog running towards me. I freaked out yet kept my composure, which is hard when you see a Rottweiler running towards you. I muster courage and politely request him to hold the dog. Mind you, when a man is with a Rottweiler you do not protest but very politely request. This man cheekily answers, “Oh don’t worry he is a baby...he is such a pussy.” Well sure he might be a meek dog but I do not want to be the first person that he decides to show his aggression to. However this dog was indeed very meek. He just ran past me and jumped into the canal. He was more interested in frolicking in the water than threatening a scared cyclist!

I watch the show, “Dog Whisperer” on the National Geographic channel. In one of the episodes the guy advised someone (who like me is petrified of dogs) to “Own your territory.” It is a sound advice but rather difficult to implement with strangers and their large dogs. Anyway I just hope people show more courtesy towards others who might not share their love for dogs or might just be nervous around them.

Anyway I love early fall when the weather is balmy. We took some pictures, which I will post later.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


I finally saw Omkara yesterday. I watched the movie with a lot of expectations because I had previously seen Vishal Bharadwaj’s Maqbool, which is based on Macbeth. This movie unfortunately was a disappointment. Among the pluses is the fact that he has adapted Othello to the contemporary north Indian setting. I am not sure from the dialect and the accent, if the theme was set in Rajasthan, Haryana or Uttar Pradesh. There are some gaps in the script, the tempo wasn’t sufficiently maintained and in between the movie drags on. Also the language is very crude. There is only so much crudeness and double entendre one can tolerate. There are light moments in this film and thankfully the film is understated with no melodrama, characteristic of Shakespeare and Hindi films!

This movie belonged to Saif Ali Khan. He has totally stripped himself of his sophistication and has gone under the skin of this character. This actor is so versatile and I am glad he is finally being given his due now in the industry. His performance does not disappoint one bit. Konkana Sen Sharma has complemented him really well. The one actor who surprised me totally was Kareena Kapoor. She has understood this character and has rendered so much of freshness and innocence to it. Unlike her older sister, she does not have dilated pupils in every emotional scene. Vivek Oberoi is all right. I had loved him in Company but I feel he is a limited actor. Ajay Devgan as Omkar is unconvincing. I had liked him in Raincoat but that role did not require him to bring in plethora of emotions and complexity in character. His limitations as an actor are exposed in this film. In my opinion, Manoj Bajpai or even Vijay Raaz (Dubey in Monsoon Wedding) would have done justice to this role. Bipasha Basu is too sophisticated to play Billo Chamanbahar. Unlike Saif she has not managed to strip the patina of urban India and understand this character.

Overall it was entertaining and in a different league than other Hindi films. Would I watch this again? Probably not!