Nothing like curling up with a book on a rainy day. We check out the pet reads of some tricity youngsters for this season…
Manpriya Khurana

Ankita Sohal Pardon the poetry, the prose and the praise in the language, but people, it’s monsoon! And over romanticizing everything around just can’t be helped. Jane Austen, John Keats to our very own Munshi Premchand, which author did not give in to the titanic power of tiny drops? And who can forget Ruskin Bond and his fantasy world comprising nature, monsoon and mountains. Before the drizzle outside puts us in a daze, we check out if curling up with a book figures in the list of ‘rain must -dos’. Here’s bringing you people’s favourite reads for the monsoons.

“There are many options to enjoy when its pouring outside, go for a long drive, just watch the raindrops, but somehow the idea of picking up a book while sipping something hot wins hands down,” Shruti Singh, B.Com student and avid reader declares.

Reading is for sure, reading what can come later. As Ankita Sohal says, “I’d love to read no doubt, given the weather, but I don’t think my reading preference would change just because it’s raining. Sidney Sheldon is my all-time favourite author and I would invariably pick him up only,” adds the Class XI student.

Veralika Singh, chemical engineering student from Panjab University, would prefer to pull out a romantic comedy. “I guess, it would be something light or a romantic comedy. Something on the lines of Bridget Jones Diary.”

Back to the beginning and back to the prose, dark clouds, sound of pitter-patter, earth awash, liquid clear.

Doesn’t it change the genre preference? Agrees, Manav Batra, an architect, “I generally like to read car magazines, or books on interior designing, but there’s a change in mood during the rains, so naturally there’ll be a change in reading preferences. May be I’d go for Paulo Coelho.”

Ankita Sharma, biomedical engineering student, stresses on the suitability of Jane Austen for the occasion. She says, “In her books, there are many different worlds, where anything as simple as rain is a celebration, a festival. An elaborate affair.” So what if currently the girl’s clued into Dan Brown? The sudden change in inclination corresponds to the equally abrupt transformation from volcanic temperature winds to cool breeze.

Agrees Shruti, “Even if we look at the complete Indian culture, hardly any folk song, tale or celebration is complete without celebrating the monsoons. This is in large part also due to ours being an agrarian economy. Many livelihoods are dependent on the rains. Just look at the amount of festivals like Teej totally dedicated to the season.”

That’s not it. Henna Bajaj, fashion designing student, smiles, “I’m not into reading, rather I write. So, I would like to write. I generally write poems.” There we go!

The season can actually be the right time to get introduced to poetry. With the whole world washed in melodrama, suddenly the rhythm and rhyme might just start making sense, appear more interesting, even intriguing!


Oops…which is this book?

While on the subject of reading, writing or even rewriting rains, hard not to bring up the monsoon classic, Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater. A book where it all begins with the rain and ends with the rain! Where the prologue begins, ‘The first sounds I ever heard were those of falling rain.’

An account of a journey in pursuit of the monsoons, all the way across the Indian subcontinent. An insight into what tropical rains are like and what monsoon does to India.

“It is an old book, a classic and though not exactly a best seller, but, yes, we have, so far, sold 10 to 15 copies,” informs Anil Sharma, sales manager, Browser’s—8. So much for the title. But have the current crop of students read it, know about or at least heard of it? Reejh Kaur, BSc.

I student, student, doesn’t even get the name right. “Sorry, what did you say?” We repeat the title. She adds, “Well, no I haven’t heard of it. Rather, I’m not into reading very much, I read comics though.” Take another. Kanika Jain, a home science student, declares, “I don’t think so, I’ve ever heard of any such book. But yeah, if the plot is interesting I would like to give it a shot.” 

And even before the name Chasing the…can be mentioned, Amandeep Sarao, declares, “I wouldn’t have heard of it. I’m not into reading at all. It requires too much of patience.” To each his own! 

Ishq vishq
Debut director Sabir Khan is all keyed up for the release of Kambakkht Ishq

Sabir Khan is a man on mission. An assistant to Mahesh Bhatt and David Dhawan, Sabir makes his debut in Bollywood as a director with Sajid Nadiadwala's, feisty romance Kambakkht Ishq. Shot extensively in Hollywood with high production values, glam-quotient and actions, the film has Akshay Kumar and Kareena Kapoor in the lead roles and has special appearances by Sylvester Stallone, Brandan Routh and Denise Richards. We at Lifestyle talk to him about his first big budget film Kambakkht Ishq.

What are you looking forward to in the movie?

It is close to my heart. As a director I hope I can achieve success. I have tried my best to give the audience what they come seeking in a movie- extraordinary entertainment.

What is the film about?

It is a story of swashbuckling stuntman in Hollywood. The film explores the relationship between two individuals as different as chalk and cheese.

Your debut film is out there for the audience to judge. How do you feel?

Great! I do not feel nervous or anxious at all. I mean, it is all right. We have done our best and are comfortable with the way it has shaped up.

What were you doing before this?

Before this I was assisting some big names in the industry. I have assisted David Dhawan in Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, but at the end of the day, I always wanted to direct movies independently.

How did Kambakkht Ishq happen?

During the making of Mujhse Shaadi Karoge, I gave the script to Sajid Nadiadwala. He liked it and got kicked about it.

Why did you opt for Akshay Kumar as the main lead?

Akshay is just right for the role. He is absolute professional and is the best actor of our generation. He is so flexible that he can do both, Bollywood acting and real acting.

Finally, what drives you on?

The desire to work and challenge. — Dharam Pal

Rain, my foot!
Don’t let the monsoons stop you from putting your best, and a little wet, foot forward. Here’s how to step out in style
Jigyasa Kapoor Chimra

With the heat wave giving way to monsoon showers, it’s finally time to wrap up your pretty white leather slippers and those shiny velvet stilettos in a plastic bag and pick footwear that protects your feet from water; saves it from bacterial infection and looks stylish too. In one word, pick waterproof material that looks good on your feet.

Flip-flops are good, so are the sporty sandals or floaters with straps, crocs are a good idea, so are rubber chappals. Easy to wash, they let the feet breathe and look cool too. Here, we get for you some real fancy ones available across the city stores.

If you are looking for some stylish, colourful and trendy plastic footwear, Bata-17 is the place to be. Available here is a variety. From see-through peep-toes to plastic jutis in vibrant hues, here you can pick sandals that are water-resistant and comfortable for the feet. Easy on the pocket, the range of monsoon footwear starts at about Rs 200.

For the ones who are hooked to the brand, Reebok too has its share of monsoon footwear. Apart from the oh-so-loved floaters, you can pick the good old ballerina shoes in vibrant hues like orange and pink.

All you men, don’t loose heart they have these crocs with a synthetic straps. Closed from the front and open at the back, they are available in varied hues and are definitely stylish. “For monsoons, Reebok’s has a waterproof range. Light in weight, the material is odour-resistant and can be washed easily,” says Ravi, sales executive, Reebok-17.

At Mochi-17, you can pick Puma’s latest monsoon range, colourful crocs and their own range of footwear. Says its sales person Dheeraj, “Apart from the known brands, we have our own monsoon collection. From slippers to sandals, we have light- weight, fibre footwear in bright hues like yellow, pink, blue, red and orange.” For the price range it starts at Rs 190 and goes up to Rs 1500.

Well, if you are thinking of making a fashion statement with comfortable and trendy footwear, PUMA, monsoon range includes, gumboots, ballerina’s, flip flops and a foam based shoes, which provides superior cushioning to your feet. It’s anti slip trait provides a great grip on your feet and vibrant hues make sure people look at your feet.

That’s not all, Drishti-17 too has some great looking footwear. Says Tarun Chadha, owner, Drishti, “Since monsoon is there for a short period in the city, this season we have introduced wet material footwear. Especially designed for the rains, this a waterproof material that is comfy to the feet and lends a stylish look.” Ask him what is in for the monsoons and he says, “Pumps are a real hit this season other than that people are still hooked to the crocs and rubber slippers.”The price range starts at Rs 595 and goes up to Rs 1000.

In the end we can say, slide your feet into a lovely rubber slipper, drench it and enjoy the rain.


Foot note

w Wear open footwear, this will help keep bacterial infection at bay.

w At the end of a rainy day, soak your feet in cold water and salt solution. Scrub, clean and wipe dry.

w Don’t wear ill-fitting shoes or strappy sandals. They can slip easily and you could end up hurting yourself.

w If you are the one who cannot do without shoes, keep your shoes in open air. Otherwise, the damp shoes can cause fungus infection.

w Thanks to footcare products, now we have wide range of talcum powders for the feet that can keep your feet happy and healthy in the rains.

Being a sport
Neha Walia

Dancing is fun. Dancing is healthy. And, it sure is the best form of entertainment we have; think Bollywood and the umpteen reality shows introducing us to a zillion dance forms. With dance came Latin and European freestyle and innovations. But just when we thought, we had enough of the usual salsa overdose, here’s another revelation. Dance is a sport, and not just for namesakes but as competitive and as technical as cricket or football.

“Bejing Olympics introduced dance as an exhibition sport. And, Latin dance is at the cross roads of entertainment and sports, it will soon be recognised by International Olympics Committee. So many European, American and Asian competitions are held to prove the point. So, dancing is just not a pastime but serious sport,” says Bandeep Reiki, a proclaimed dance artiste and specialist in Latin and other forms. Initiating a first of its kind programme in the city, Bandeep will teach Cha Cha, Jive and Rumba, not as part of recreational or fitness regime but strictly as professional sport at Planet Fitness-8.

“These are internationally accepted forms and are classical like Bharatnatyam, with a structured technique. All we know of Latin dance is salsa, which is freestyle club dance. But these will be taught in pure form with equal measures of expressions, grace, poise and conduct,” he explains.

A businessman who took to dancing as a weekend-killing exercise, Bandeep soon turned it into a passion and completed his advanced training in Mumbai. “In England, there are proper examinations conducted on dancing, with every detail kept in mind,” he briefs. And, now he aims at grooming competent talents for these international level competitions. “Being a Punjabi I would say, salsa is to Latin dance what Bhangra is to Bharatnatyam. So, despite the passion, you need time and practice. It is something that gets better with age.”

Now, of course he wants to make an Abhinav Bindra or Yuvraj Singh in Latin dance, but what about their dance IQ? “We will have a beginners course, teaching them A to Z of dance till they graduate to higher levels,” he says. Any other requirements? “All I have say is, if you can walk, you can dance.” He signs off with a statement that proves his point, “I want a Punjabi guy showing Latinos how to shake it.”


Star trek 
Jasmine Singh

Yes, it’s a traditional Indian home, wherein buying anything, especially an electronic appliance is nothing short of a Vidhan Sabha session in progress. Whether it is a home theatre or a fully-automatic washing machine, mummy and daddy would window shop for the best bargain, the elder daughter will look up the Internet for more information on it. And, chota bhaiya will come jumping back with information gathered from the neighbours who own one.

Yet another family affair hits the city on Friday in the form of ‘Stars of India’ an exhibition organised by LG Electronics at Hotel Aroma. The exhibition showcases a series of world class products especially designed for India. Loaded with advanced features these products will take the consumers through a complete LG experience.

Says Deepak Jasrotia, regional manager, greater Punjab and Haryana, LGEIL, “Stars Of India will showcase an entire basket of LG products, which are normally not available at the respective showrooms. Sales, of course, are one aspect of this exhibition. At the same time, we want to create an awareness about the products amongst the consumers,” adds Deepak.

Stars Of India will take place at 220 cities in the country and every hour consumers will be given a chance to win LG products. Every exhibition will also have I ticket for South Africa Champions Trophy, which will be given away through a bumper draw. In addition to this, a talent contest for kids will see winners to get a chance to go to South Africa for Champions Trophy along with one of the parent.

“These products are designed especially for the Indian market,” says Deepak. These include LG Jazz with 500 watts PMPO of great sound, stereo centre speaker, microwave oven up to 56 Indian auto cook menu, a unique top-loaded washing machine, which comes with audio assistance speech technology, range of frost-free refrigerators which has a vegetable storage box called Vitamin Plus, separate beauty and care compartment, LG GM200 with star feature 2.1 Ch stereo woofer with Dolby sound.

Side Lanes
I’m a memorial
If the children want any of the family inheritance, my statue, in pure white Italian Carrara marble, will have to be put up in the garden
Joyshri Lobo

July 3, 2009. It is a memorable date for a memorial. I sit before 65 statues, all veiled, waiting to be stripped, one at a time. The tension is palpable. Will it be her, him or the elephant? From my vantage point they look alike. I sweat and rivulets of salt fog my eyes. I brush all away with an impatient hand. There she comes! 

A jewelled umbrella over her head, she rides on a painted elephant. The waiting gentry are weighed down by huge two metre garlands, two devoted officials, four careful hands to a piece. They cannot afford the luxury of wiping sweat as the scented offerings will crash. The elephant kneels and she daintily slides down, hands held by adoring bodyguards. 

Her flowing robes are creations by the best names in the country. Her purse is slung on the right arm and the elephant is kind enough to sit still so that she does not fall. Though it is a sweltering day, our leader looks cool and not a strand of the boyish haircut is out of place.

The photographers surge forward. The garlanders wait in queue, according to seniority and earlier in-assembly battles. Madam holds her head within the frame of the exquisite garland. Her smile is studied, proud of her many successes. A thousand flashes pop. The moment is preserved for the world and history, and to be recorded in schoolbooks by the next term.

As priests chant and holy water is sprinkled on her shoulders (at the cost of sacrificing their jobs, the bureaucracy has been forewarned not to dampen her hair), she puts out her hand and pulls at the tasseled cord. We wait all agog. Will it be her, him or the pachyderm? 

Some peon has done a fine job of making the knot secure as the summer “loo” has been blowing and he was forewarned too. A panic stricken bureaucrat rushes forward and carefully unties the reef knot. The silken veils slither in a heap and we gasp- it is the beloved leader, correct to the minutest detail- Milano bag in hand, hair in place, flowing silken tent covering unsightly tubbiness and embroidered shoes. It is not a wax model from Tussaud’s as that would melt in the Indian summer but a perfect likeness hewn out of the finest red sandstone from Rajasthan.

The crowd heaves a collective sigh of relief and approval followed by thunderous applause. There is a slight tilt of the coiffure head in grateful acknowledgement. The next stripping shows an elephant, the third is of the Dear Departed Godfather and Mentor.

As I look at my ugly mug heading this column, I realise not enough has been done for me. I add a codicil to my will. If the better half or children and grandchildren want any of the family inheritance, my statue, in pure white Italian Carrara marble will have to be put up in the garden, with Stelli Minelli, the cocker spaniel beside me in the same colour. 

All this has to be done after my sad demise. The family is appreciative of the fact that I have not asked for more likenesses. It may cost too much and I do so want them to have more cash. However, I have asked for a fountain from my head, instead of my ubiquitous back pack, as I detest bird droppings and the water is useful for the garden.

Somewhere down the line, we women have forgotten to make our presence felt. Our leader has set a glorious example and we are now proud of being women. As I walk down the beautiful plaza, saved from greedy realtors and slums, I realise that the ruling party will have to do a rethink on the next election.

They can ride a camel or a rhinoceros for all I care, but they will have to put up a better tamaasha to win. I’m sure the flourishing mines in Rajasthan are creating beautiful stone garlands and the sixteenth statue for the Lok Sabha. Our leader has given us pride, which is better for an empty stomach than food. Jai Ho!

Objet D’ ART
Car seva
For artistes, the Ambassador represents an era of Indian culture
Parbina Rashid

The painting of the mangled heap of an old Ambassador car lying outside a garage in Delhi.
The painting of the mangled heap of an old Ambassador car lying outside a garage in Delhi by the same artistm

Who says technology does not attract artists? Maybe at a different level, but they are not immune to it altogether. Take for example, Desmond Lazaro, a UK-born artist, who came to the MSU, Baroda, to do his masters and later became an apprentice of late master miniature artist Bannu Ved Pal Sharma and learnt both Picchvai and miniature school of art, picked up ambassador cars as lost cultural objects and painted it.

He was not way of the mark when Lazaro perceived the Ambassador as part of Indian culture. Despite its British origin (Hindustan Ambassador was based on the Morris Oxford III model first made by the Morris Motor Company at Cowley, Oxford) the Ambassador is considered the definitive Indian car that it is meant for sarkari babus too, make it all the more coveted.

This is the very reason city-based artist Bheem Malhotra took up the Ambassador as his muse. Always on the lookout for unusual subjects, Malhotra picked up a mangled one lying outside a garage and another one at the Hall Bazaar at Amritsar.

"I took up the Ambassador as a theme because it blends so well with the local scene," says Bheem. He is right. The mangled one with curvy lines, add to the chaos of the backdrop. "It was a very old model and I used it as a metaphor for the indiscipline scenes which one gets to see all over the country.

The other is on the roads of Hall Bazaar, just in front of the famous Hall gate. "A traditional city and a traditional car! Nothing else could have complemented the set up," says Bheem. And, he does justice to them. Executed in water-colour, Bheem manages to place this piece of technology without jutting out of the scene.

This is precisely the reason why after having seen Bheem's works, Dennis Roxby Bott's painting on Ambassador looked a little out of place. Bott, of course worked on the English version and placed it inside a shade. Though the car and the broken shade is the main focus, one can make out the backdrop to be some countryside. The most striking feature of this painting is the interplay of light and shade, which illuminates the car partially.

"I had not seen Bott's paintings when I did mine and hence my works remained uninfluenced by him," says Bheem. One can see the difference. The similarity ends at the strong lines both have adopted and the medium which is water colour. The ambience is different. 

While Bheem's Ambassador becomes an integral part of an Indian urban hub, Bott's car looks more like imposed in a rural scene, at least to an Indian eye. After all, we did adopt the Ambassador as our own, and no matter what new models may hit the market, this one would always remain the status symbol for true Indians.


Original problem

Strange as it may seem, the home museum of renowned painter Raja Ravi Varma at Kilimanoor Place, near Thiruvananthapuram, does not have a single original of the maestro on display. Pained by the absence of originals, descendants of the legendary artist have sought a probe to trace and restore some of the precious works of their illustrious relative to the gallery, which displays only the prints of his paintings.

Ravi Varma, known for his vivid and graceful depiction of scenes from Hindu epics, was born in a royal house of Kilimanoor in 1848. A prolific artist, he left hundreds of oil paintings before he died on October 2, 1906. Hundreds of paintings and sketches made by him are scattered in galleries and private collections in India.

The Palace Trust, which looks after the home museum, recently lodged a complaint with police, seeking a probe to trace some invaluable works of the artist, either missing or remaining unaccounted for having changed hands over the decades.

The family claims that as many as 75 paintings of the master were handed over by the Travancore Royal administration in 1940, which had been transferred to the Kerala Government after Independence. — PTI 

Creative zone
Rhythm and reason
Tabla maestro Ram Kumar Mishra feels accompanists in India do not get their due
S.D. Sharma

Rhythm in Indian music is the perfect cadence which involves a uniform progression from note to note in ascending and descending orders and with various permutations and combinations variegated taal patterns can be created. Besides articulating the melody meter of the singer or instrumentalist the tabla has itself carved world recognition as a solo performing instrument," opines tabla maestro Pandit Ram Kumar Mishra , the percussion icon and doyen of Benaras Gharana.

Holding the rich musical legacy of 200 years, this grandson of legend Pandit Anokhe Lal, Ramkumar learnt tabla from his mother Manorama Mishra after a stint in classical vocal under his father Pandit Chhanulal Mishra. Later, he imbibed the finer nuances of the art from guru Chhote Lal Mishra. He has mesmerised music lovers in India and abroad with his solo recitals as well as by providing accompaniment to all-time great legends of Indian classical music and also Western music.

Having taught music for 18 years at Benaras Hindu University, Ramkumar is now the most sought-after tabla virtuoso. He was in the city on the invitation of the State Bank India to provide accompaniment to santoor wizard Padmavibhushan Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma in a music concert to mark the Bank Day celebrations at Tagore Theatre.

Ramkumar shared his views on certain issues of interest to music lovers. "Providing tabla accompaniment to Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma is itself a crowning achievement, a blessing and learning experience. 

With over six decades as a star performer, Panditji is an institution unto himself and I love to learn from him," claims Ramkumar. "Not many art lovers know that Panditji is an astound tabla maestro and liberal to impart his innovative experiences with all. I have learnt many classic patterns from him, for instances the lyakari and Chhand ka paryog, the spontaneous merger of the jhaptal (of ten beats) in the teen tal (of sixteen beats) pattern while introducing some thrilling cross rhythmic phrases.

However, for accompanying with a lead vocalist or instrumentalist, the tabla player has to follow different parameters so as to generate a cohesive melody," he says. He has been rightfully honored with prestigious national awards.Having performed with top legends, Ramkumar, however, feels that tabla maestros are yet to get their due. The tabla, these days, is much more than an accompaniment instrument and the audience relishes it, especially in Western circuits," he adds.


Feel-good art
Cartoon character Popeye now becomes an artist’s muse

Artist Jeff Koons has presented a series of Popeye paintings in London, saying the cartoon hero born of the 1929 Depression was a symbol of self confidence, before adding enigmatically: "May be art is the spinach".

The 54-year-old American, one of the world's most successful artists dubbed the "King of kitsch" for his shiny, balloon-like creations and references to pop culture, is marking the first major survey of his work to be held in a public English gallery.

"Jeff Koons: Popeye Series" opened at the Serpentine Gallery in London on July 2 and will run until Sept 13.

As well as the Popeye canvases, it features a series of Koons's trademark casts of inflatable toys in the shape of lobsters, walruses, turtles and monkeys.

Some of them appear to be pushing through wire fencing or garden chairs in what some critics see as a symbol of people determined to get through the recession.

"I always see a little bit of my father in Popeye," Koons told reporters at a preview of the show.

"But something that's not so personal is that it's 'I yam what I yam', and it's this self-acceptance.

"And for art to function ... you first have to trust in yourself and when you trust in yourself you can follow your interests and follow them on a profound level."

Speaking of his fascination for inflatable animals, which he reproduces in minute detail using aluminium and paint, he added:

"In our own life we're inflatables. We take a breath as a symbol of optimism, we exhale and it's a symbol of death. We're in a permanent state of being optimistic."

Koons said he wanted his art to make the viewer feel good about life.

"Art's this vehicle that connects you with human history and that's what these works are about. I want the viewer to come into contact with the work and to feel that everything about their life to that moment is perfect, absolutely perfect."

Another recurring theme in the show is the inflatable lobster, a reference to surrealist Salvador Dali's use of the animal in his art as well as his elongated moustache.

In the 2003 canvas "Elvis", the creature is painted over two images of a semi-naked woman staring voluptuously at the viewer, a sexual reference that also runs through Koons' art.

Like Briton Damien Hirst, Koons embraces the role of celebrity artist, drawing criticism from some commentators who dismiss his work as tacky, superficial and cynical.

Others, like Jonathan Jones of the Guardian newspaper, disagree. Jones called Koons a "brave and original" artist whose work "declares the weirdness of its materials, its themes, its maker and its public." — Reuters

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