Sunday 8 January 2017

Food for thought and doggies

This video is dedicated to all the lovely canines on the streets that make my life worth living. Ignore the seemingly boastful title - this is shot by Kanth'risa, a sand artist friend of mine who chose to be generous. Still feed a couple of dogs regularly.  

Hymn to Isis

Hand drawn detailed winged egyptian goddess. ISIS. Hathor.Vector isolated illustration.
For I am the first and the last.
I am the venerated and the despised.
I am the prostitute and the saint.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the mother and the daughter.
I am the arms of my mother.
I am barren and my children are many.
I am the married woman and the spinster.
I am the woman who gives birth and she
who never procreated.
I am the consolation for the pain of birth.
I am the wife and the husband.
And it was my man who created me.
I am the mother of my father.
I am the sister of my husband.
And he is my rejected son.
Always respect me
For I am the shameful and the magnificent one.

- 3rd or 4th century BCE, discovered in Nag Hammadi

Eyes that hunt for street charm and past glory

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There are magical moments that go unnoticed as we go about our daily chores ridden with the trappings of urban life. This calls for someone like freelance photographer Lakshmi Prabhala who has taken it upon her to capture these fleeting moments.

The photographer now has a coffee table book to her credit - Hydandseek. It's collage of the colours, textures, and moods of the streets of Hyderabad. The pages of the book are peopled by happy souls that don't have a care in life. Says Lakshmi, "It is a collection of both my past and more recent work."

Lakshmi speaks of how her art teacher encouraged her drawing abilities and the talent to think in visuals during her schooling in Bahrain. She avers, “I chose engineering in class 12th, this was when my thinking actually got a lot more three-dimensional.” But her journey as a photographer per se started much later. Says she, “My brother lent me his shoot-at-point camera during my college days and then, I clicked whatever I found interesting. I tried my hand at various other genres like abstract photography, nature and people.” She adds, “Slowly, I found that street photography is what I liked doing.” She never ceases to look for interesting moments to shoot.

This photographer who has no official training in her field had showcased in Alankrita, an ace art gallery in the city, many years ago and still continues to showcase at different galleries in Hyderabad. One of her past collaborations, Hyderabad Diary 2011, a diary publication by Hindi Milaph, presents snapshots by a group of talented local photographers. The diary features candid shots in the Nizami city’s lanes and by-lanes.

One of Lakshmi’s “personal projects” is “to document lesser known monuments in the city that will do with better maintenance.” Sitarambagh Temple, Hayat Bakshi Mosque, Patancheru Tombs, Purani Idga, Moula Ali Dargah, and Sarai Khana (a royal guest house built by one of the prominent Nizams in his time) are some of the sites in her list. Says she as she shares a breath-taking picture of Hayat Bakshi Mosque post-renovation, “These are places many people do not even know exist.” She agrees that tourists as well as locals get to enjoy only ‘popular sights’ like Salar Jung Museum, Charminar, Hussain Sagar and tacky amusement parks.

Many of these monuments are under threat due to air pollution caused due to industries among other things. Patancheru Tomb is a typical example. Among her prominent subjects are Jama Masjid and Idga Masjid. Within the premises of the mosque lie the ruins of an old Turkish bath. The Jama Masjid remains one of the principal places of worship in the city. Interestingly, prayers are offered only twice a year at Idga – on Eid-Ul-Fitr and Bakreed.

Lakshmi gushes, “I love the spontaneity of the people of. They still hang out at Irani Chai cafes to chat about their favourite stars - there is no sense of hurry in them. Also, in the heart of the city, unlike in the old city, is it tough to click people pictures without the subjects getting self-conscious.” But has Hyderabad changed in all these years especially since she started off her love affair with the camera which was in 2005? “The distinction between the old and new is stronger now – the two don’t interact much.”

She mentions Raghu Rai and French photographer Claude Renault among her favourites. She opines, “A photograph must tell a story, it is not just meant to be pretty. I loved Raghu Rai shot of a corpse on the shores of Yamuna with Taj Mahal as the backdrop.” There is a grand tomb right behind the corpse and the corpse in itself is lying unattended! She signs off, “Photography is only 20 percent technique and the rest is art. Composing something a sight you see into a photograph is also art.” But points out that a photographer breaks the rule of composition when he is emotionally drawn to a sight.

To get your copy of Hydandseek by Lakshmi Prabhala visit:

Saturday 7 January 2017

Aspirant passes with flying colours. Clears the first round!

It was a cold November evening. I glanced in the mirror. I almost looked like a red-faced monkey with the muffler on. I was hesitant to take the muffler off because I was already feeling chill with anxiety.

Groom fit on his wedding ring on right hand. Close-up of man in suit hands fidgeting golden wedding ring
Just then, there was a knock on the door and I quickly said a prayer before answering the door. And there she was! Natasha was there all prim and proper and decked up in a black lace kurti and dark blue jeans. I could see she dabbed some lipstick on and defined her eyes beautifully with her favourite brand of eyeliner. That did make me a little more determined for what was to come. Come on, now ask me what.

She gave me a wink and a tight hug. I could see that she was all set to drag me from my bachelor’s pad to her home to meet her parents. I was a reluctant visitor – my English isn’t half as good as her father’s.

The drive from Lakdikapul to Red Hills was torturous. My Yamaha was swerving on the road as usual. But my mind was all scattered. I kept thinking of ways to greet her dad while she, on the other hand, kept yapping about the most random things possible.

Both of us stood at the door of the house and for some strange reason – call it bravo if you like – I took the initiative to ring the bell. A grey-haired man who was six feet tall opened the door with pursed lips.

I said, “Good morning, sir.”

He said, looking at me from my face to toe, “Please come in. Take a seat.” I could see that his eyes lingered on the tiny tuff of grey hair sticking out of my muffler.

I sat down and tried to make a conversation.

I braved, “Sir, there is too much moisturizer in the air.”

Natasha nudged me. She whispered, “It’s moisture!”

Then, Mr. Seth started off on a longish talk on politics and current affairs.

I groped for something to say in my mind. Confused, scattered thoughts flew in my mind just as shreds of glass and tiny pebbles would fly in the air during an urban disaster. All I could remember was the picture of a film hero with his six-pack physique on the page-3 column that day. But I forgot his name too given my tension that morning.

The talk went on for an hour or more. I lit my cigarette and sipped on the tea that Natasha’s mom placed on the teapoy just to look intellectual. I tried to look all broody. I groped for my pair of thick spectacles in my sling bag to add that extra accent to that instant look I was trying to sport – that of an intellectual.

But, did it help? No. By the end of the meeting, I had to take my muffler off because I was beginning to sweat – not because it was humid but because I felt like screaming. I felt like screaming - “Sir, your daughter and me love each other and want to marry each other. Why can’t we keep things simple? I earn well and am a good guy. I am not a drug addict or a shoddy guy of sorts! What is your problem?”

Alas! That was just the beginning. There was more to come, I presumed. Natasha’s father said when I was about to leave, “Mr. Ranjan, it was nice meeting you. You have to drop in sometime again on the weekend. It will be a pleasure speaking to you again.” I nodded with an awkward smile.

It was almost like him saying, “I like your resume for the job. But, we will have to soon hold a second round of interview.” It sounded terrible and I felt like banging my head to the grill of the front door as I was taking leave. But, I bore it with a smile also because Natasha, at that point, beamed and looked more smitten by her dad than she was by me.

I knew that I had to come back for the second round of assessment because Natasha was just too precious to let go of. Besides that, the crispy dosas for breakfast are also a great payoff I get for visiting her dad.

The only way out is through it.

Often yoga is seen as a physical exercise to achieve mental balance and physical well-being. However, we often forget that yoga is a spiritual practice that stabilizes your system in ways a beginner can’t even imagine.
Even a practice as common as Hatha Yoga (yogic postures) has a scope that is far beyond physical fitness and flexibility. Each asana strengthens a particular state of mind. Let me explain this.
Have you ever observed the shoulders of a person who is sad? Are the shoulders squared or drooping? You will find them droopy, for sure. Likewise, when someone is brooding, it’s worth observing their body language. Merely holding their chin high is difficult for them. Now, pay attention to the same person’s posture when he is joyful. Needless to say, their postures are more erect and sharper. Hatha Yoga, at a physiological level, is practiced with this understanding. In Hatha Yoga, it is a case of body over mind – there is a willful aim to change the state of mind using physical postures. As a result of these yogic poses, the physiological chemistry at the physical and mental level goes through a change. Therefore, in Hatha Yoga, we use yogic postures / asanas that were designed by ancient Indian yogis and sages for overall human well-being.
Vintage retro effect filtered hipster style image of Yoga outdoors - sporty fit woman doing Hatha yoga asana Vrikshasana tre pose on tropical beach on sunset
It’s interesting to note that scientists, not very recently, found that a chemical called Oxytocin is responsible for mother-child bonding and bonding between lovers. It is famously called the ‘love harmone’. So, I rest my case. Every emotion, in itself, is a kind of chemical reaction in the mind and body. This holds good for grief, joy, love, hate, and pride.
There is, however, another aspect to it – Hatha Yoga also cleanses you mentally and emotionally due to changes happening at the level of your pranic energy. Read on.
Initially, many people, especially nascent practitioners, report that yoga has alleviated their anxiety and offered them relief from their chronic ailments. In this initial honeymoon phase, yoga serves as a balm for their difficulties in life but soon enough it is natural for the yogic practice to start to shove them out of our comfort zone.
We must know that this is a new phase in our sadhana. This is when yoga becomes a cause of tension instead, and we encounter the difficult and scary aspects of who we are and how we behave. At this point, we tend to lose heart and give up, believing that something is wrong with us or with the type of yoga we have chosen. We may even feel like dropping the practice forever, but this is the time we need to resolve to carry on.
During this challenging phase we have a chance to work towards knowing ourselves at a deeper level. For example, we may suddenly notice jealousy, anger, or fear arising, and worse still, we may even identify with them. We must sit up and tell ourselves, at this point, that we are going to remain aware during this cleansing process. As much as the word ‘posture’ refers to our body, it pertains equally to our inner world and mind. By working on the outer posture, the Hatha practitioner gains access to his emotions.
Well-known yoga guru Geeta Iyengar once said, when asked what we can do when this sort of fear crops up during ouryogic sadhana, “When fear arises, you must lift your chest. You must lift your heart.” The answer is a great advice and holds insight for us on both a physical and emotional level. Fear has a posture and so does courage.
So, this is how deep Hatha Yoga is as a discipline. Hatha Yoga began with ancient sage Matyendranath who was an exponent of Hindu tantra. Legend has it that he was a direct disciple of Lord Shiva. In yogic lore, Shiva is known more as adiyogi, the first yogi to have walked this earth, than for his powers as a deity.
Many know Patanjali as the ‘father of modern yoga’. We must pay attention to the word ‘modern’. Yogic practices existed much before the emergence of Patanjali. He, a great intellect and an enlightened being, saw that yoga was already getting diversified into too many different forms and took it upon himself to put the discipline into a format. He thought that this format can be assimilated with better understanding by yoga aspirants. This is how Patanjali’s yoga sutras came to be. However, we must note that asanas were just a small part, or rather formed just one limb, of his literary work.

For now, we move on

Dancing Fashion Woman wearing Blowing Long Chiffon Dress. Fashion Art Fantasy Collage. Sand Fairy

The lush green leaves let go of the last raindrops taking in the newly risen sun.
The warm sunshine hits my face as I squeeze my eyes shut looking out of the car window.
Just then, my phone rings and I grope the insides of my pink handbag.
Each time my phone rings, my heart skips a beat thinking it’s you.  
When I turn out lucky, my heart settles into an infinite calm wanting to cease the moment.

We have been together through centuries....lifetimes.
We cuddled lying on the sand dunes of lonely deserts.
We dodged rifle shots on war-ridden fields holding each other’s hands,
holding on to a glimmer of hope that we may just be able to see through the war.
On other times, we walked shoulder-to-shoulder braving the cruel, cold streets looking for a shelter.

My soul knows this and more.
These are the glimpses of truth your heart refused to see.
Yet, I let you move on as I grieved.

I still smell our coffee conversations at melancholic corners of the café.
Amidst teak tables, sturdy chairs and candy-coloured, used cool drink straws.
Everyday, I briskly stroll from one table to another taking orders relentlessly.
The crisp white, starched uniform chokes me but not as much as the thought of you does.

One day, I hope you walk in to sip coffee albeit with your lovely lady.
For now, we move on.
Goodbye till we meet again in another land, in a different era.

Ten best colours for your living room

A living room establishes the personality of the home and colour is a vital aspect of it. For instance, wallpaper with green scenic motifs tells a story of a nature-lover and a subdued shade of mauve on the wall tells a tale of a gentle soul. You are the colours you choose.  

Deck your room with the timeless beige.

Use shades of beige – it spells classiness. Accents of other hues go a long way to accentuate the beige. Why not be bold and opt for dark purple accents on textured, tussled cushions? Or throw in splashes of green with potted crotons at select corners! 

Say it with mint! 

Mint is a contemporary colour. If you want to give your space a rustic twist then say it with jute. Try jute on tea-poys. A jute artifact on the wall will also do the job. 

A tripod lamp with a walnut finish gives more dimension to the room!

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A dose of fuchsia to wake up to 

If you’re fond of the browns and greys then ensure your living room is not broody. Give that icky living space a pop of bright colour.

 Fuschia is a good choice as long as you don’t spew the colour everywhere. Just a trace of it on the vase, a table cloth or cushion offers the needed depth. On second thoughts, why not shop for brightly coloured crotons? 

You don’t need a home overlooking a shore. Just opt for the greens. 

It’s the most bountiful colour in nature. However, blending the right shades of greens is an overwhelming task. Pale chalky greens work with whites, vanilla and duskier pink shades. Imagine a space with a muted green wall with dusky pink accessories! If you pick a bright, zesty green as the dominant colour then play with fun patterns on the cushions. 

The understated grey

Though grey is not my thing, I admit it looks lovely with warm undertones. An overdose of grey makes a space cold and dispassionate. Ensure you flaunt happy photographs or a bright painting on the wall to have the room tell a story.  

Ivory, pure and creamy 

Ivory is known to make smaller rooms look spacey and wide. Use mirrors to reinforce the effect of Ivory. To add a little bit of drama use doses of bronze. The metallic hue has a sheen other colours can’t beat. 

Lavenders for smoothness 

How often have you seen homes where interiors look laboured? Quite so often. When you have chosen Lavender as the colour of your wall, you lessen the risk to a great extent. It’s one of nature’s smoothest colours.  Greys and lavenders are a classic combination. Ask you decorator to attest it! 

Drama with deep plum 

Smart choice as this is a versatile colour. Shades of orange complement it hugely. You will also be doing a great thing by dusting the metallic flower vases and getting them out of the attics to put them to good use. Also, why not pair up the deep plum base with a brocaded, murky orange curtain or a rustic orange lamp? 

Go royal with purple

A monochromatic living space is all about smartly using the shades of the same colour to create a calm, livable space. Stick to one shade of purple to create a base – it can be the colour of the wall. Then, have fun as you conjure a purple-play in the rest of the room.

Make a statement with the reds 

Red is sexy, bold and dangerous. But using too much of bright red can make the room look aggressive. Consider ochre or a muted tone over too much of crimson - it adds warmth. Interestingly, red, an advancing colour, looks closer than it is. It works well to deck up a long room to have it look square.
As we let you go, we have a word of advice. Colours are an important aspect of our lifestyle. Choose wisely. Complimentary colours occur on the opposite sides of the colour wheel. When you choose a pair of them is when you need a professional designer to leverage the choice.