Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Art chat for Delhi's teenagers

If you're between 13 to 16 years old, here's a great way to get the inside dope on contemporary Indian art.

Saffron Art is conducting a Walkthrough on Art, explaining the basics of modern Indian art and its context. You'll also get an up-close look at works by some of the biggest names in the art world.

Sounds good, yeah?

Date: September 1st, 2012
Venue: Saffronart Gallery, The Oberoi Hotel, Dr.Zakir Hussain Marg, New Delhi- 110003
Time: 11 am to 12 pm
Session led by: Yamini Telkar, Head Saffronart Gallery, Delhi

The painting alongside, by the way is Tyeb Mehta's "Falling Figure with Bird". It is one of the paintings on display during the session.

Tyeb Mehta witnessed communal brutality on the streets of Mumbai in the aftermath of the Partition of India. His paintings are filled with images of violent separation, falling figures and fractured forms, reflecting the death and dislocation that he saw. 

You'll find more information about Tyeb Mehta and his work here, on the Saffronart website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The quirky side of dentistry

Among the many businesses in Old Delhi, there is a thriving wholesale business in dental equipment. Just near Jama Masjid is a shop called Dental Depot where I spotted this blissful open-mouthed mannequin. 

On your next dentist visit, here's wishing you the same bliss :)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mystery Shop in Ballimaran

Some one please tell me what this shop in Old Delhi is actually selling? And to whom?
Ballimaran, I am told, originally used to be the mohalla where boatmen lived. They rowed boats on the Yamuna. 

Today, only a few things are known widely about this area - a lot of people know that Ghalib's haveli (where he died) is here in Ballimaran. Rickshaw-wallahs will gladly take you there. The jooti-market is here, selling colourful leather mojdis and shoes. Then there are lots of shops selling spectacles and sunglasses; apparently this is a wholesale centre for opticals. The varq-makers live here, tapping out thin silver foil to decorate traditional sweets. And there are lots of small eateries, offering Mughlai and Afghani food. 

But the shop above - it doesn't fit into any of these, and I can't quite figure out what these various wooden rings and beads and what not are. Some of it looks like metal, some like plastic. Help!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Delicious Nankhatai biscuits in Old Delhi

No blog on Delhi is complete without a mention of these wonderful treats - light, crispy, flaky, nankhatais! I spotted this stall when I was walking along Dariba in Old Delhi, after a day of shopping for silver.

You know the best thing about these nankhatais? They're warm when you eat them! They are made hot and fresh on old-fashioned coal ovens, and when you bite into them, you get this warm crumbly deliciousness. It's difficult to stop with just one!

I love the browner ones, what about you? Store-bought nankhatais are a boring white colour, but these street stall ones usually have a lovely brown colouring. I think it's because they are stored right inside the coal oven, which keeps them warm and makes them browner. The baker usually rotates the trays, to evenly balance the heat from the coals. 

Another thing is that store-bought nankhatais are all the same size and shape, because they are cut using machines. But these ones, they are made by hand, and they have a pleasing lack of uniformity.

Try it at home. Nankhatais are downright easy to bake; you can be an utter kitchen-klutz and still turn out pretty decent nankhatais. I've made them many times, all by trial-and-error, but they always taste delicious and they always get polished off by the family in no time.

There are many variations of nankhatais, from plain to dry-fruit to chocolate flavoured. I like the plain ones best. There's a very good video here, which shows you how to make these at home: do try it! If I can do it, so can you :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Visiting GOONJ - an absolute must-do in Delhi

If you live in Delhi, or are planning to visit Delhi, I highly recommend you make time for a visit to GOONJ.

Over the last ten years GOONJ has grown into a mass movement among both urban and rural people. What do they do? They have been successfully mobilizing cloth (primarily from affluent urban areas) and re-positioning it as an important development resource for the poor or disadvantaged, rather than "waste". They are bringing about social change through recycling waste, and it is an absolutely inspiring thing to see.

A central feature of Goonj's model is that Goonj improves and adds value to what is thrown away, making it actually usable. This value-add is critical. Their knowledge of "on the ground" realities  in rural India sets them apart from other places, allowing them to finely assess what will make sense and to whom. What is also unique about Goonj is that they are bringing large scale into the operations, dreaming big, and achieving it too!! I admire their model enormously, and think it offers one of India's best learning experiences.

The Goonj centre at Sarita Vihar. Our group just hangs around...it seems like just another ordinary looking place...until the material begins to arrive from their network of collection centres across the city.

The first step in making the material useful is washing, cleaning and drying. It then goes to the sorting centre, where it is made more useful. When you give ready-to-use clothes to Goonj, they sort by gender and size, they remove unusable things, add strings to pajamas, make colour-coded sets, and despatch material sensitively (salwar kameezes to north Indian women, gowns to Bengali countryside etc based on what is worn where). They have a Cloth for Work program where people can do social service projects in their villages in exchange for clothing. This allows recipients of charity the dignity of working and earning what they need.

One of the major problems women from poor backgrounds face is the lack of sanitary napkins. This is a basic need, and when it is not met, it deprives women of basic dignity and freedom. Goonj is meeting this need using waste cloth. Cloth is washed, cleaned, cut into the right size, and packed in used newspaper for distribution. See what I mean by "Goonj understands ground realities"? This is just one of many examples - and you will hear many, many such sensitively designed ideas when you visit them.

Apart from cloth, they also repair, recycle and redistribute a wide range of things, from toys, water-bottles, schoolbags, stationery. There is a repair unit which works hard to make things reusable, they do everything from mending to attaching buttons, hooks, straps and so on to convert waste into something useful.

At Goonj you can see many things that have been made from waste materials - satchels, bags, cloth of different forms.. it's inspirational to see the kind of work they do, employing simple skills, but great care and "on the ground" understanding of what exactly is needed. This is what sets them apart from other do-good organisations that go around collecting stuff. Goonj understands that you can't take stuff and just go dump it on people just because it is charity! You have to give people what they really need and find useful. This is especially true in disaster-relief operations (Goonj has been doing fantastic work in this area).

If you are an overseas visitor coming to Delhi, please bring a suitcase full of things you don't need, Delhi Magic will take them from you, and send it over to Goonj. If you would like to visit them, let me know and I will help arrange it. This is a truly inspirational place to visit and I would like everyone to see their marvellous work. You can donate cash too, it will go towards the enormous relief work that Goonj is undertaking in flood and other disaster-hit areas.

What you can and cannot give to Goonj:
If you have trouble reading this image, head over to the Goonj website and there is a detailed list there.