Indian Bioscope Memories – Memoir


Ze=ssus I said as the infant in the building opposite to ours began to wail in his stereophonic sound. Nature has a way to gift certain special abilities to human babies. Her cry echoed subduing even the cacophony of the birds on the nearby trees.  It was late evening and the power had decided to take a break unannounced. Generator backup failed for some reason and in the midst of humid monsoon stuffiness and rapidly increasing darkness we sat staring silently into nothingness.
“Is there any candle in the house?” a male voice came from the depths of oblivion. “No, but my cell phone has a LED flash light”, I said. “Great, pass it on I want to go pee. “  I handed him the android with a warning not to flush it in the pot and with that my mind threw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jumped over the back fence taking the old memory trail into the woods of bygone days. It was a voluntary endeavor as walking with the ghosts of yesteryear in not everybody’s idea of spending the evening.

There were times we weren’t so listless and utterly lost when the power went off for long hours. The day went in usual mundane activities and the evenings and nights in sitting silently or having a bonding session with the family. We sat around fat white candles whose flames slowly danced with the breeze or remained motionless like guards on duty.  In some houses a lantern or  lamp would burn emitting a delicious smell of kerosene. (I love the smell).  Each of us would stir the still air with colorful handmade fans made of cloth, dried palm leaves, dried bamboo leaves or sometimes just an old newspaper.  We didn’t mind the darkness and void of not being able to do anything so much as we do now because we didn’t have those gadget extensions we have grown over all these years like Laptops, AC, fan, lights, TV and stuff.  We didn’t have them and didn’t feel the loss. Our lives were enriched by other more interesting things, things which have faded into recesses of the past like the evening shadows.

I watched the boys’ faces glowing in the blue lights of their cell phones and sighed. As children I involved them to in storytelling, playing word games, atlas, talk about their various adventures, sing songs, make parodies, and do anything which would keep their minds off darkness and heat/cold. That is what I did as a child with my parents. In winters we would snuggle in a quilt munching peanuts, roasted gram or other rustic snack and a special kind of warm energy flowed through all of us keeping us close. These days it is rare that we get those cozy moments illuminated by candle lights. The art of storytelling is vanishing with the coming of modernism.

My mind drifted further into the trail and found the bioscope man. We don’t find him these days except in some fair where hardly anyone pays attention to him. In those days he was the most sought after person. We would gather around him and wait for our turn to watch a song or a clip from that magical colorful box. This curiosity box was all we had for entertainment before the technology filled our homes with CDs, DVDs, and cinema halls and multiplexes lured us into their cozy comforts. The screen culture has taken away the magical world which was created for children something which the toys are assigned to do now a day.  It is amazing how integral, inseparable and organic practices of the people were before technology and fast life took over. I hardly see circus, magic and puppet shows, the street performers, tight rope walkers and jugglers who used to frequent the cities. They have been forced to leave their family trade and find an alternate profession.

I remember the rag dolls, wooden toys and the joy of playing marbles and other indigenous games. I saw a lonely wing swaying on a lush mango tree longing to be lifted up to the sky with a child’s cry of joy. It tugs at my heart how far we have left the things which were not just an integral part of our heritage but also learning tools. Modern machines and equipment has taken away the delicious mellow lingering taste of food prepared on clay and wooden ovens. Chutneys prepared on heavy sil batta (flat grinding stone) spices crushed in mortar and pestle made of wood, iron or stone. The rotis , bhakri ( Indian breads) made on wood fire and the vegetables, pulses cooked on wood fire or uplas (cow dung cakes). Fast food culture has taken us in its grip ad nauseam. The traditional recipes are dying out unnoticed and neglected.

We used to have the wooden parat (a flat utensil for kneading the wheat flour) and many beautiful clay, brass, copper cooling vessels. A man on cycle would call out on summer afternoon “bartan kalayi kara lo” or “ chaku churiyan tez kara lo” ( get brass utensils polished “ or “ get knives sharpened” ) and we would run to watch the expert fascinating process with wonder filled eyes. Now with non stick and abundance of easy to maintain cookware these arts are lost forever. Some trades are vanishing fast like the ancient bed stuffer with his guitar like tool is replaced by machines that do the cleaning of cotton to be re stuffed in the mattresses. Slowly the rubber foam,coir mattresses have replaced the cotton filled ones killing the trade completely.

I wonder how many people of my generation or later have actually watched these men perform on the streets. Some more voices call me as I glance back. A high pitch sing-song voice of a fruit vendor “ jamun kale kale mujhse bhi zyada kale, kale kale re phalse thande meethe re phalse” (  black and juicy  fruits, blacker than I am). These were the street sellers who brought delicious java plums and berries indigenous to this region. The salivary glands would immediately start working overtime thinking of the sweet and sour tangy taste of the fruits and we would run out to buy some in a leaf folded and sealed like a cone with a toothpick. Some other delights like the ripe jackfruit and tamarind along with star fruit were also sold by the vendors. Made into a spicy chaat sprinkled with spices the star fruit would make our mouths water.

I remember walking in the fields of ripe sugar cane with dad and watching with awe the making of jaggery and fresh molasses. The taste of soft fresh jaggery and rab (molasses) is unforgettable. He took me to see how the oil was extracted from mustard seeds. In the middle of a room there used to be a Kolhu. At the bottom, it had a hole to collect oil. It the middle it had a very heavy wooden rod. The rod pressed the mustard seeds against the wall of the Kolhu. This rod was linked by another piece of wood placed on the neck of a bull. As the bull went around in circle, the seeds were pressed to extract oil. After the oil was extracted, the empty cake of mustard seeds was mixed with the feed for dairy cows or water buffalos. For a six-year-old it was nothing short of a visit to wonderland. We would walk among the fields of gold (the yellow flowing mustard fields) and come across a rahaat or water wheel (Persian wheel) powered by a buffalo or a bull. The cold clear water would bring the village kids to bathe and play there. Sometimes the farmers or weary travelers would sit there to rest on charpais (wooden cots weaved with ropes) placed under shady trees.

Some musical instruments like the ektara a single string instrument made of clay The ektara seller would play melodious tunes and lure us to buy one and we would create our own cacophony on it for hours together.. I remember burring a mango stone from an over ripe mango for some days and then making a musical wind instrument with it. We even held a blade of grass between both thumbs and blew on it to make musical sounds. Simple pleasure are free I always say. 🙂

These photographs are just a flashback from parts of  north India where I grew up. Wonder how many ancient art forms, traditional trades, instruments and local delicacies are slipping away into an unknown abyss never to be found again.

I can’t forget the thanda sattu (roasted powdered gram or barley mixed with sugar and water) fresh sugar cane juice straight from the hand powered machine or chilled sweet laasi (churned curd) brimming till the top of a huge brass glass. No modern day drink can replace them in nutrition and taste. The clay pots were used to make the curd and were kept chilled with wet jute bags(bori) etc. sometimes the matka or clay water pot was placed in a hole dug under a tree to keep water cool. Now the villages have turned into small towns and machines and modern gadgets have replaced the charm of these traditional trades, practices and instruments.

My maternal grandmother used to make fresh white butter and give the first mould to me. The warmth of her love and the taste of that butter is unforgettable. I have eaten fresh butter straight from the churner during my visit to Punjab villages.

One hardly sees the vultures which were such a common sight those days. They have become extinct. Many of those gorgeous birds have vanished and our children soon will see all this in illustrated books, Nat-Geo and museums. Such a sorry state of affairs that the orthodox rituals, customs which needed to be drastically replaced still thrive and the beauty of the traditional cultural heritage are lost forever.

The blaring sound from the TV and the sudden jarring light brought me back to present. Lines of a poem crossed my mind

thus one age departs another comes

while I just stand between two darks

The instant coffee scalded my tongue and left a bitter taste in my mouth. Lack of time spent together has hardened the human heart. We have become less tolerant, lead a sedated dream like existence, lost the art of conversation, lock ourselves in the comforts of air-conditioned homes and slog in the concrete jungle to meet our growing wants.

Each person has made a cave around him/her where he/she lives a senseless existence oblivious to the crumbling surroundings. While we are busy confessing the dark and heavy secrets of our lonely heart, we find comfort more and more in the vibrations of the tiny buttons of our gadgets. Slowly with all these electronic touch keypads the warmth of human touch will become just a memory.

We scream for warmth of human contact yet we’d rather text than talk.  Isn’t it sad how we relegate humanity to the unfeeling circuitries of our tech inventions? Must modern man –this catalyst of past and future, science and faith — discard to desuetude the touchstones of his inspirations?

As I walked back the bioscope man smiled and I gave in to the temptation to be a child again to peer through the view finder of the very projector that gave birth to modern cinema and then slipped into oblivion. Enduring images of jataka stories, alluring actresses and dashing heroes of popular movies flashed before my eyes and then abruptly the bioscope came to an end. The bubble busted and the bioscope man receded into darkness.

Soon like the bioscope many of the cherished things with gather dust in museums and memory lanes. I am glad that my boys managed to get a firsthand experience of the old world charm and that will keep them rooted to our cultural heritage till long. They will keep the art of storytelling alive by recounting their experiences and mine to their children thus keeping the flame burning.

Disclaimer: I do not own copyright for these images.   All photographs are credited to their rightful owners. Images taken from Internet for reference. 

Homemade Karonda (natal fruit) Jam Recipe


Karonda Pickle Recipe Here.

Karonda is an exotic fruit which grows wild in bushes in India it is part of the family carrisa and its botanical name is carrisa carandas. It is a beautiful ivory color fruit with deep blush of red and pink on it. It has medicinal properties and can be made in to preserves, syrups etc. In north India it is also made into pickle. It tastes very sour and there are different colored karondas available from purple to deep red in India. We commonly get the Ivory ones in summer and make jam from them. Here is my recipe for karonda jam.

Karonda Jam 

Ingredients :

1/2 kg Karonda ( fruit should not be damaged or spotted)

1 kg. sugar

4 cups water

 Method :

Wash Karonda fruit properly and cut them in halves.

Take out the pits(seeds) and place the fruit in water.(throw this water as it will be extremely sour)

Heat a heavy bottom pan and boil the fruit in new water .

The moment fruit becomes tender add sugar and keep stirring.

Some people sieve the fruit after boiling and then add sugar but I love the pieces of fruit in the jam . For those who like smooth jams the tender fruit can be passed through a sieve so a pulp is obtained.

Stir constantly till sugar dissolves and the pulp thicken.

I forgot to mention some details so here is an

Added note from a comment by reader:

“While making jam with or without sieving, how much time to cook after adding sugar is critical. “ek tar’ is grandmas wisdom. When the sugar thickens enough so that dipping your finger in the liquid and separating them leaves one ‘string’ attached to your fingers, it is done. More cooking than that will caramelize the sugar. The western wisdom is to freeze a plate in the fridge. Drop a bit of the jam liquid in it and pull a finger through it when you feel the jam is thick enough. If the finger leaves a gap in the syrup, the jam is cooked enough. If not, you can cook a little more.”

Remove from flame and cool.

Once cool spoon it in a glass bottle.

The karonda fruit is full of vitamin C and is rich source of iron and that makes it good for those suffering from anemia.

Do try the recipe and enjoy this wonderful jam.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Theme For Thursday – “Yellow”


Yellow is the theme for this Thursday’s photo challenge.  Yellow reminds me of Marigolds, bright sunshine, dahlias and lovely yellow sunflowers.  It also reminds me of evenings spent under Laburnum trees.. It’s yellow lantern of delicate flowers swaying with   summer breeze.

You will be surprised to see  intoxicating yellow  of the ripe jack fruit.

 

Among the tropical fruits the deep intoxicating fragrance of ripe Jack fruit and its delicious taste still makes me reminiscent of  the childhood days spent in Pune. I love the crunch in them and there is no other joy which fills my heart than carving out the ripe yellow pieces of this lovely fruit.

The morning sun rays bathed the gorgeous plant and its yellow immediately brightened up with joy.  The simple pleasure of life that gladden the heart and make life worth every living moment.

The most beautiful things sometimes grow in the midst of  thorns. During my walks in Lonavala I found this yellow beauty tucked away among spikes that drew blood at one touch. A clear sign that nature wants us not to disturb the balance it has created.

There is always something precious in what nature gives us. we just have to open our hearts to receive it.

A place in the Sun – A heartwarming Feeling


My blog is featured in the Platinum Category of

Directory of Best Indian Blogs


I had no idea it was featured in Feb survey too. It feels wonderful to be read and appreciated.

Thank you all for being part of my creative world. For honest critiques and encouragement .

Thank you for all the warmth and love.

Do leave your views so that I can improve my writing.

10 Day You Challenge : Day 10 – One Picture


I really Enjoyed doing this tag and it helped me discover so many things about myself that I had not paid attention to in months now. Life isn’t all that bad and dreams can still be realized. Today this journey comes to an end and it is time to post one picture of me. I wonder if I will even be able to own this magnificent dream machine but I sure want to ride it once. Godji please make this one dream come true. :p

10 Day You Challenge : Day 9 – Two Songs


Now this is unfair. Two songs? How can one choose two songs? For a music lover like me this is the hardest post till now. So many wonderful artists, so many music genre. There is so much music across the globe that I love. From folk to classical and movie tracks to instrumental. Each country has something special to offer.

Let us take one Indian and one western. Something different from what I usually share on Facebook, Twitter, Blog and other places. Something which is part of our music heritage.  A Qawwali   This is beautiful poetry by Amir Khusro sung beautifully by Sabri Bothers. I love it for the sheer beauty of its lyrics. This Qawwalli is played at the dargah of Hazrat Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti also known as Khwaja gareeb nawaz  during Urs at other times too. Very close to my heart. Enjoy!

1. Chhap tilak sab cheeni ray mosay naina milaikay

One can’t really put just the first part so taking liberty to share part two also.

A part of English translation of the poem is –

You’ve taken away my looks, my identity, by just a glance.
By making me drink the wine of love-potion,
You’ve intoxicated me by just a glance;
My fair, delicate wrists with green bangles in them,
Have been held tightly by you with just a glance.
I give my life to you, Oh my cloth-dyer,
You’ve dyed me in yourself, by just a glance.
I give my whole life to you Oh, Nijam,
You’ve made me your bride, by just a glance.

2. Don’t cry for me Argentina – André Rieu

I loved Evita and Madonna’s version of this song till I heard her beautiful haunting voice . Time stood still and tears flowed freely. Each time I listen to Suzan Erens   I get goosebumps . Andre Rieu himself is one exceptional violinist, conductor, and composer best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss. Suzan is just extraordinary as far as diction and performance goes and beautiful too. The song is very close to my heart as was the movie. Enjoy !

I know I am doing a great injustice to all the legendary artists here by not even mentioning them but then there is always time for another post  exclusively for them.

Hope you enjoyed the two exceptionally talented maestro I presented.

The tag is coming to an end now but you can read from where it all Started .

10 Days You Challenge : Day 4- Three Films


I am not a movie buff but there are certain flicks that I can see over and over. They may be part of the main stream cinema or just a little different. It is difficult to pick just three. I loved Life is beautiful, Behind Enemy lines, Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s list. There are hundreds of animation movies that I absolutely adore like Finding Nemo, Lion King, Aragon, Happy Feet etc. Then there are musicals and western classics. The list is endless. It is hard but let me select the three that touched my heart.

1. As Good As It Gets : I am a huge fan of Jack Nicholson and loved him as Joker in Batman. Exceptional artist and what a remarkable screen presence the guy has. A very well written and flawlessly directed dark edged romantic comedy. One of the best of its time. The greatest pleasure is the acting of Nicholson. Devilishly cuddly but at the same time in absolute control. He keeps you glued till the last scene. It is a very different role he plays here and the strong chemistry between him and Helen Hunt is exceptional. I like Hunt too. Simple and brilliance personified. My kinda woman. :p

 2Mackenna’s Gold – When we talk of western classics there are a few films that come to the mind. The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Mackenna’s Gold, Stage Coach, The Magnificent Seven, High Noon Duel in the Sun and many more. I saw Mackenna’s Gold as a teenager and instantly fell in love with Omar Sharif. Gregory Peck of course is all time heart-throb. The cinematography is amazing. Whole film is shot in Grand Canyon a place I would love to visit one day. The music by  Quincy Jones is as always exceptional. The plot revolves around the legend of  a fortune in gold hidden in the “Canyon del Oro,” guarded by the Apache spirits. It is an action packed, colorful film with a beautiful  Jose Feliciano-sung ballad at the beginning of the film, “Old Turkey Buzzard”. The aerial Photography is breathtaking. Though the movie remains one of the weak western one I still love it for the sheer pleasure of its simplicity.

3. Now to our own Bollywood.  Khamoshi is one of my favorite movies. This Rajesh Khanna , Waheeda Rehman starter was a landmark in Indian Cinema. It had a bold plot and a very courageous climax for its time. The inner turmoil of the female protagonist , the love and the dilemma made it an excellent watch. Both the lead actors gave a brilliant performance. This 1969 movie had Waheeda in all her subtle moods and Rajesh too makes one want for more. The heart wrenching story is projected very well and the music is exceptional. Some of the best songs of that time came from this movie like tum pukar lo, wo sham kuch ajeeb thi, hamne dekhi hai in aankhon ki mehkti khushbu etc.

Hope you enjoyed my selection of movies. If you are doing this tag do leave a link so I can discover some good movies.

It all began HERE 

 

10 Day You Challenge – Day 5 : Four Books


 

You can give me some good books , a few bars of chocolate and refill my jug of filter coffee and then  lock me up for the rest of my life.  This is getting tougher than I imagined. Choosing four books out of so many that I love is unfair. Let me pick up some titles/ authors who are my all time favorites. The books I can read over and over.

1. Gabriel García MárquezLove in the Time of Cholera –  I read Marquez during my course in Spanish language. The book’s theme ‘the transcendental power of love, its sacredness and embodiment in everyday life’  is portrayed  so beautifully that one doesn’t want the novel to end. Though It was the first novel Marquez wrote I read One hundred years of solitude first and then got lured to this one. Marquez maintains a dark earthy humor through out the book. I would call if a masterpiece of sensuous prose. A must read.

2. The Witch of Portobello – Paulo Coelho–  “How do we find the courage to always be true to ourselves—even if we are unsure of whom we are?” The question was nagging me and the answer came through this absolutely wonderful book by Coelho. I love his works and have read most of them. Bewitched by Athena, the lead protagonist, I read the entire book in one marathon read and then read it again.  Many people have not liked it as much as other Coelho books but for me this is a pilgrimage of soul, an inner journey into the hidden power of our life infused with philosophy, religious miracles, love, fear of loss .It is a story of her spiritual quest, her constant urge to fill the empty spaces in her life, her efforts to connect to her spiritual side through music and dance.

3. The Alexandria Quartet – Lawrence Darrell – A sensuous tetralogy set in Egypt, Greece , the book captivates with its romantic spirit, pain, espionage, and mystery. Each story is a word picture and is luscious, delightful. The characters are complex, colorful and deep, the vocabulary intense and elegant, the plot like a magical tapestry. Over all a fantastic book if you have patience to go through a thick quartet. One can read the books individually also. All of them are set in beautiful and rugged Alexandria, Egypt.I recommend this to all who are passionate about  reading. A fascinating book with a unique style and structure.

4. Bhagvad Gita  – This ancient Hindu epic is a philosophy of life as I read it. I am not a religious person but I read with an open inquisitive mind.  Krishna is the only person in the history of human consciousness who is tremendously in love with life, with the poetry of life, with the music of life, with  dance of life. He is not at all life-negative, he is very affirmative. And he accepts life as it is; he does not put god and the world as opposites.” When I read Bhagvad Gita or The song Divine  it transformed  my way of life. We , who do not see Krishna just as a God , see his as a yogi, a philosopher and a teacher. He is the greatest scientist and engineer . You can listen to the Song Divine Here  but you must keep a copy of it with you to read as part of your daily routine. It is a science of self-realization and deep inner knowledge. For me a spiritual quest. Read more about Krishna and

One book I want to pick from my childhood.  I know it is a four book challenge but I still want to write about it. The Fire Bird was one of the first Hard cover books I had and the exotic book cover made it even more delightful. It had lovely colorful illustrations and a brilliantly told story that I read every night. It made me dream of castles, princesses and the exotic fire bird. The illustrations are by  Boris Zworykin. I parted with the book in tears when it was given to a library for kids. Somehow I had realized I will miss it all my life. It was also a birthday present.

The one I had, had a glowing Orange cover with a huge fire bird, I searched but could not find the same cover online. Russian Tales are always very engrossing and my all time favorites .

There are many more books I could have written about . Maybe in some other post 🙂 Meanwhile enjoy these.