From Art to Heart


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Denizens of Namma Bengaluru are treated to dollops of street art every now and then. More recently, the painting of a swimming pool in and around a large pothole captured a lot of attention. The painting seemed to come alive when somebody captured a realistic snapshot of a random pedestrian trying to step in gingerly into the painted waters holding the bars of the ladder and uploaded it onto social media.

The picture sent me on a nostalgic trip down the busy streets of our city a couple of decades ago. Just about every Saturday, a couple of kids would appear at around 4 pm with brooms and fine brushes. They would clean up a patch of the ground measuring the size of a small carpet. An hour later, their master would come and quickly draw the border lines without using any instrument. Charcoal powder or white rangoli powder would be evenly spread on the floor. Then the master would draw another border around it.

Within a matter of an hour, he would be going round and round drawing the outline. Gods and goddesses from the Hindu pantheon would emerge magically as he deftly coloured and gilded their ornaments. Once done, he would rest on the platform with his young companions, waiting for the footfalls to linger there. The public would offer prayers and place a coin carefully along the demarked borders before proceeding.

For kids like us, it happened to be the staple weekend all-round exposure to the arts, culture and resourcefulness. No one, except an occasional gust of wind or a spell of rains, would disturb the work of art till it earned bread for its creators until the next weekend.

These artists, though torn apart by time and space have managed to strike a chord and have warmed the hearts of many who have been exposed to their works. They have managed to make us not only appreciate their work but also reflect on it, even if only momentarily. These artists who unleash their creativity with confidence and élan silently remind us how a piece of fine art can warm the cockles of our heart and ruminate on matters beyond the mundane. They serve soups to our souls and hence it becomes our moral responsibility to sustain them and their art. For art is long and life is short!

Perhaps, this is what Khalil Gibran’s meant when he said:

“And if there come the singers and the dancers and the flute players – buy of their gifts also.

And that which they bring, though fashioned of dreams, is raiment and food for your soul.

And before you leave the marketplace, see that no one has gone his way with empty hands.

For the master spirit of the earth shall not sleep peacefully upon the wind till the needs of the least of you are satisfied.”

Enclose With Elegance


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neat Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides of your showcase. photos by author

Did you know that the showcase that adorns your living room is perhaps one of the features that is almost never missed by your guests and visitors? They pay special attention to the showcase because they are aware that it is the hotspot in the house which conveys a lot about the residents.

The trophies that assert one’s success, the souvenirs that stand witness to your travels around the globe, the antique piece which speaks about your aesthetic inclinations, the family heirloom that display your affection for your grandparents and so on and so forth, jostle with one another and proclaim your collective personalities as a family.

It is true that all of us who have arranged our showcases must have spent some time giving it our thoughts and exercising our creativity. However, we may have noticed that not all of them are always appealing or exotic. This does not for a moment mean that your stuff is not good enough nor does it mean that your showcase has become redundant. All the same, the lacklustre aspect could be attributed to several reasons.

For one thing, it may have collected dust and grime. Otherwise it could be overcrowded or sparsely filled up. Sometimes, we leave essentials like keys, bills, torches, money, matches etc in some section of the showcase for easy access, not realising that they could be an eyesore.

If you think that the above reasons are not applicable to you perhaps, you have never changed the arrangement over the years, giving it a sense of predictability, which will fail to garner the attention of your visitor. So, here are a few tips that will ensure that your showcase attracts renewed attention:

Remove all the contents of your showcase and clean them thoroughly.

Clean the showcase and the covering glass using soap and water. If the walls of the cabinet have yellowed or scaled due to age, rub the surface with sandpaper and scrape it completely.

Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides. If your cabinet is made of wood, a coat of ready-made wood polish will do the job.

Check if you have one too many articles that will look good when hung. Take stock of the number and fix little sticks on hooks (easily available in the market) on the ceiling of the partitioned area.

Sort out your showpieces either in terms of size or theme. If you are the sort who likes to rearrange memorabilia time and again, it will be a good idea to stick to a theme. On the other hand if you want to take things easier, identify a few things that you always want to display and change only the other items from time to time.

Make sure that all the unsightly wires that run through are carefully stapled and hidden away.

Toss in a few pieces of camphor in every shelf to keep it pest-free and fragrant.

Use an old newspaper to wipe the glass clean from both sides before sliding it over the showcase. Make it a point to wipe the glass clean at least once in a fortnight.

Repeat this exercise and bring variations in the display once in every three or four months.

Do not place damaged pieces, picture postcards or family photographs amid other things, unless it happens to match the theme.

Know Your Mother Tongue


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It so happened that a polyglot visited the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya. He told the king that he could read, write and speak impeccably in 18 languages. He challenged the scholars of the court and asked them to identify his mother tongue.

Scholars in various languages were summoned and were asked to hold a dialogue with the guest. Each one of them had a personal interview with the said scholar. They found for themselves that the multilinguist was claiming nothing but the truth. Yet, the challenge was a matter of prestige to the reigning king. He turned to his intelligent court jester Tenali Rama to find a solution.

Accordingly, Tenali Rama waited for the scholar to retire for the night. When the polyglot was in deep slumber, Tenali Rama threw some cold water over him. Almost immediately the shocked sleeping man awoke and shouted. “evarura waadu?” Tenali Rama sneaked away from the scene only to tell the king that the mother tongue of the scholar happened to be Telugu.

This little story is a pointer to the fact that no matter how many languages we might learn and master in life, our mother tongue stands supreme and foremost for it is embedded in our psyche ever since the day we are born.

We learn our mother tongue from our parents and immediate family and neighbours in the aural or shravana mode. We are never sensitised to any aspect of grammar when we learn our tongue. We grasp aspects of syntax, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation merely by being exposed to it day after day throughout the formative years of our life.

Despite all this, most urban Indian children have lost sight of their mother tongues. Mixed marriages, nuclear families, the need to study in schools of different medium due to relocation of families from their native places can be identified as root cause of this trend.

India is a country of several such languages, most of which are still alive. We can interpret our glorious literature, tradition, culture, arts and architecture better because they share an invisible link with the associated language. A little effort and utilisation of modern technology and media coupled with human effort can keep the link to languages alive and pass them on to posterity.

Never Out of Fashion


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Trend cycle

A lot of us feel that if we are not in vogue for whatever reason, we become vague. Hence a lot of time, effort and money are invested so that we do not become outdated in the stylish world. In other words our passion for fashion is perhaps as old as civilization itself. A close observation of the happening trends around us will reveal that the so called seasonal look had existed in the past partially or in a consolidated manner somewhere, sometime. What we have presently done ( I mean at all times) is rediscovered the quaint old charm and fit it into the present to serve our social ethos and emotional satisfaction.

An honest dekko at the history of fashion across the world will assure us that hemlines and necklines regularly wax and wane. The length and width of our sleeves and trousers lines seem to be strangely guided by tidal waves. The colours of the rainbow bracketed by black and white enter and exit in turns assuming all the shades in between. Florals, stripes, polka dots, checks, animal and ethnic motifs wait in the backstage ready to take their turns on and offstage. Experts and the experienced will vouch for the fact that most patterns of different phases of life are essentially cyclic by nature. The world of fashion is no exception to this rule.

Accessories that go with our clothing range from subtly accentuating what we wear on the lower end of the scale, while, they sometimes seem to displace clothing by making a statement loud and clear. Our hair nails, skin tone, colour of our eyes, shape of our body and facial features have been subjected to dreadful disciplines to stay topical.

Now let us go through a fun exercise of keeping up with the trend in some random aspects of fashion. Then we will also see a parallel of the idea which existed in the past.

NAIL FILES

The double French manicure is nail the latest trend in nail art. The experts in the field do a thorough manicure and paint the nail in such a way that the upper portion of the nail is coloured in different stages of crescent moon, in various shades of sunrise.

Those of us who have had the experience of having applied Mehandi on our hands inclusive of our nails will vouch for the fact that while the pattern on the skin will fade away in a week’s time, the nail will retain colour till it outgrows our fingers. So all of us the average south Asian woman, who sported orange crescents of different proportions were way ahead of time because we have already been there and done that.

PATCH UP

Flip a women’s magazine over, you cannot but stop to admire the pretty ladies in their finery. These are days of mix and match. Different coloured and patterned cloth is ripped into strips and then stitched together to form a fabric. Then the self made designer cloth is cut to make exotic clothes for that vibrant ethnic look. People are ready to bleed their purses to possess one such work of art in their wardrobes.

Now, a little flashback, or a random flipping of channels will remind us that nomads and gypsies used the very same technique precisely for the same reasons. Those who considered themselves to be civilized copied the art and took to quilting in the big way, only to furtively work their way back into clothing.

SANS SOCKS

The most modern of them all, follow this unisex trend of doing away with wearing socks. It makes a lot of sense because we are becoming a hotter planet. Besides our shoe designers are working day and night to provide us with shoes that breathe and work hard to keep our feet from stinking. Those who cannot shed the “socks habit” are surreptitiously using ankle socks and tucking in the visible part only to look trendy.

When the sun did not set on the British Isles, the colonies in the tropical countries were enamoured by the booted looks of the White man.  They took to wearing shoes and half shoes sans socks, for two reasons. One, the socks was totally unfamiliar to their culture. Two, the oppressive heat made them omit the appendage.

HEAR HEAR ABOUT THE EAR

The affected young ladies of the west have declared that cuffed ear rings that hug the contours of the ear line happen to be the trend of 2016. Any material under the sun from seashells, to paper, to flowers, to plastic and precious metals and gems have been experimented to give that classy look.

Piercing the contours of the ears and wearing delectable accessories is not an alien concept to us south Asians. Our timeless jewellery boxes which house these striking trinkets can make the just born collection of the west fade in comparison.

BOW BROW

Men and women, who have been born with joint eyebrows, can save a pretty penny this year because, sporting a Unibrow, happens to be the in thing these days. Beauty parlours all over the world are wishing for this trend to go away because the numbers that come to correct their brows are dwindling. People are encouraging hair to grow between the brows and sometimes clipping on a tiny tuft to bridge the gap.

A trip down the memory lane will remind us that the artists singing the Qawwali, especially the women would use an eye pencil to draw a line between the brows to give them that distinguished pretty look. The trend would ensure that the beholder rests his or her eyes On the bow like  brow of the person. It was a show stopper even then.

CROWNING GLORY

Time stands testimony for the fact that women have manipulated their crowning glory to the point of horripilation by curling or straightening it, perming or colouring it, cutting it or growing it and then tried every tip in the world to keep it clean of dandruff and lice and save it from having spilt ends or simply falling away from our scalps. We plait it, put it up in a bun or very simply let it down when we don’t try out exotic hairdos. The fairer sex of another time and place precisely did the same things with their manes using different implements, chemicals and ecofriendly products. For example Remember how the entire nation gasped when they saw Meena Kumari in an atrocious orange wig signifying the extensive use of henna?

Men with long hair, sometimes worn in a pony tail or as plait are considered to be the prototypes of the quintessential cool man. Men have worn long hair ever since Paleolithic days. Gods, kings and common man alike have worn their hair long without being rebuked or commented upon. Long hair among men has been considered as a symbol of power and strength. Can you think of a single god in the Greek or Indian pantheon with short hair?

SWEEP BACK OR SPIKE THEM

The hair gel perhaps sells by the pints because fashion conscious youth across the world cannot do without them. It is certainly fun to see them sweating over the stuck up look when our rural brethren manage to arrive at the same look with a tablespoon of castor oil. To be fair to the “gel”, we must admit that it comes in a variety of tantalising and soothing aromas.

VEGAN JEWELLERY

Flowers, leaves and sprouted cereals are doing the rounds on the latest ramps across the globe. Fashion Gurus gather the beauteous bounties of nature and fit them out as accessories like finger and ear rings, necklaces, bracelets, hair bands and sometimes as items of clothing when they weave a casual sarong or a sash with natural leaves and flowers to accentuate that green look.

The costumes of traditional Greek,  Hawaiian and belly dancers and many varieties of folk dancers across the globe cannot be considered complete without floral garlands and tiaras Any Indian who is exposed to this genre of vegan jewellery cannot but recollect the classical looks of Sita or Shakuntala bedecked with floral jewellery.

Carolina Herrera once said, “Fashion has always been a repetition of ideas, but what makes it news is the way you put it together.”Truer words have not been spoken.

 

Eco friendly is the Way Forward -Ganesha Chathurthi


3rd September 2016

One cannot simply miss the terracotta images of gigantic Ganeshas peering through transparent polythene sheets serving as rain protection, lining the highways leading to the city and the main market places. Smaller versions of the lord and his mother goddess Gowri flank the bigger images. It is interesting to note that quite a lot of them are in earthy colours, with a glint of gold in places. They have been made by conscientious artists and will be bought by likeminded devotees whose hearts beat to the rhythm of nature. The online portals and niche studios that make and sell eco friendly Ganeshas had their order books completed several weeks ago. More and more people celebrating the festival publicly and privately are clearly responding to the cause of mother earth. It is heartening to note that little communities and social groups are coming together and working on sustainable solutions that can take care of the disposal of festive waste and the customary immersion of the idol post festival without wreaking havoc on our already overburdened lakes and ponds.

Well begun is half done! Looks like years of green campaign by the earnest are beginning to bear fruit albeit sporadically. The recent rains which flooded our cities over have also given a very clear signal that if we fail to take cognizance of violating the basic rules of nature, we must also be ready to face nasty surprises.

For those of us who are still not very convinced about all the furor over using idols that have been fired and painted gaily in toxic colours, we must realize that these idols run colour for a long time. The chemical nature of the dyes used may dissolve in water but not before first polluting it and taking a toll on the life of the fish and other creatures in the tank. Then the idol will take an extremely long time to disintegrate and disperse in water. Even the idols which use coir or hay as skeletal system to give it shape take quite as long too. The residual clay will enhance the silt layer of the water body. It will in turn enhance the height of the lakebed and become instrumental in rising water levels and consequent overflow of water during rains. Then there will be really no point in wondering how, the very Ganesha whom we worshipped reverently made life miserable for us.

An episode from Nilakanta Vijayam underlines the importance and divinity of eco friendly worship. Indra the lord of gods never failed to venerate the deities at the dawn of each day. He would complete his ablutions and then collect a handful of fresh flowers before making a beeline to the banks of the celestial river Ganga in the heavens. Then he would carefully select a couple of rounded pebbles for worship, clean them thoroughly and place them on the sands along the rippling waterline. Then he would offer his prayers and floral tribute reverentially to those little stones (saligrama). Once done, he would return the pebbles to the water, (quite on the lines of how we immerse Ganeshas today) and go his way only to repeat the process the following day.

Now Indra the lord of Gods as we all know had everyone and everything at his beck and call. If he wanted to, he could have availed the most precious of resources to conduct his daily worship. Nevertheless he chose to pick pebbles from the river and return the same to its source the very same day. By doing so, he ensured that he did not disturb the natural order of things to display his devotion or faith. When the lord of gods can abstain from exploiting nature to express his faith, can we not?

This year around, let us ensure a pollution free Ganesha Chathurthi, filled with faith and lots of fun and the one that we will remember to be a model worth emulating in the years to come!

With Better Strength and Shine- Vitrifed Tiles


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With its beautiful finishes, low porosity and commendable resistance to heat and water, vitrified tiles can be the perfect flooring option for your abode. Radha Prathi offers some insights

The ultimate idea of a clean floor in our country is when one has cleaned, swept and mopped it with all kinds of chemicals and solutions. We have been following this method for ages without a break, no matter what the kind of flooring is. Natural stone floorings like granite, marble or salt stone have borne the brunt of this harsh routine for a long time. Yet floors made of cement, ceramics, terracotta and certain low-quality mosaics have succumbed to scratches, pockmarks, cracks and even little craters by the sheer result of wear and tear.

This syndrome has proved to be a nightmare for conscientious housekeepers, who take pride in their work. While the building is well designed and has lots of scope for utility, it falls short in such cases, raking up huge maintenance bills. Sometimes, mere poor maintenance of the flooring botches up best-laid plans for a home.

The best solution to the problem will be to replace the flooring with a sustainable option. Now, we have two choices: for those who can afford, they can go in for marble or granite. Both, while costly, are long-lasting and classy. On the other hand, if you have a smaller budget, but do not have the heart to completely uproot the foundation, relaying the floor is another option. Don’t worry: relaying the tiles won’t pinch your pockets.

Reworking aesthetically

We live in the age of vitrified tiles. These beautiful tiles which come in all shapes, sizes, colours have become the builder’s pet and with reason too. They are man-made ceramic tiles endowed with great strength, low porosity and come with great resistance to scratches, heat, water and even frost. They come with glazed and matte finish for both indoor and outdoor uses.

Laying these beautiful tiles on your own is no big deal as most dealers who sell tiles also sell the requisite cement, adhesive, polish and acid necessary for the laying activity. Some of them also have trained tile layers who can lay tiles in an eight square premises within eight to 10 hours.

Yet the challenge lies in reworking on existing premises. If one can manage it, it will be in the best interest of the building in the long run to remove the present flooring completely, put a layer of cement over it and then lay the said tiles according to the instructions. This method can prove to be very cumbersome, a little expensive and time consuming though the results will be spectacular.

The other way to lay these tiles is to lay them over your present flooring. Many people all over the world have experimented with this idea and have arrived at different conclusions. While some of them have considered their effort to have been successes, others have cursed the day when they decided to go in for this particular method. If the tiles are not laid properly, they can make the floor uneven. Over a period of time, the gap between the tiles could open up to moisture. And when we mop the floor on a daily basis, lots of moisture gets accumulated in such gaps. Then we can do nothing much about it except rework on the entire flooring.

As in all things, if we follow the prescribed procedure properly, chances of disappointment can be non-existent. If you are one of those people who choose the easier but trickier option, you will do well to go to a professional for such things.

Starter tips

But if you are doing it on your own, here are some helpful pointers:

* First of all, remove all the doors in your facility, because the floor level will rise when the vitrified tiles are overlaid on them. They can be refit at the end of the exercise. You will need to get a carpenter to saw the extra wood towards the bottom of the door. This will ensure the door will fit perfectly with the new height of the floor.

* If the existing floor has developed a crack, check its strength and piece them together with cement. In other words, make sure that your flooring is even.

* Clean the floor thoroughly and keep it free of dust, paint, oil etc, before applying the chemical adhesive to the floor.

* To avoid wasting the adhesive, make sure it is mixed in small proportions. Never make the mistake of using the leftover adhesive of the previous batch while mixing a new batch. However wet or fresh it may be, never mix the old and the new because it is this little bit of thriftiness which will lead to lumping which will in turn make the flooring jagged in the long run.

* Even out the adhesive so that it covers all the borders of the tile. Remember, unevenness is either due to excess of the adhesive or a lack of the same.

* Ensure that you double check the direction of the arrow to gain the visualised pattern before laying the tile. Just in case you make a mistake, remove the tile immediately and scoop out the adhesive. Allow the place to dry and then scrape out the remaining adhesive before reworking. This kind of mistake may stop your work for a couple of hours, but doing the square thing will prove to be a stitch in time.

* Once the tiles are laid, make sure that you do not place anything heavy over them or walk over them for the next six to eight hours. If walking on them is unavoidable, ensure you walk on them only after four hours and only step on the centre portion of the stones. If you want to use the passage earlier than that time period, it will be best to relay the tile as described earlier. There is really no point in being penny wise, pound foolish.

* The following day, the hairline gaps should be packed neatly and carefully with white cement putty. Remember to wipe the floor clean with a wet mop only after 12 hours.

* Inspect the borders of the tiles with your toes. If it happens to be seamless, you have accomplished your mission, if not, nothing is lost.

* Your dealer will hire out a buffing machine which can correct small aberrations when used by an expert user.

* Once the buffing is done, go through the white cement exercise.

* Since most vitrified tiles come polished, there is no need to polish them all over again.

* A light acid wash can be implemented if the floor has been soiled. Please consult the tile dealer before taking a call.

So, are you ready to say hello to fabulous vitrified tiles now?

Deconstructing Clever Signs


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Radha Prathi, Aug 14, 2016,

Reflections

The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation.

The written word has a charm of its own. It is not merely what is available on the Internet and in media and books. Sign posts, menu cards, brochures, pamphlets and billboards, bloopers and unintended puns have the power to lighten many a heart with their original content and humour. However, I would like to dwell on another genre of writing that has grabbed my attention on and off. Though I have come across many such nuggets, the following take the cake…

A Xerox shop had put up a new price list. Alongside was another sheet of paper that read, ‘We are not responsible for the pricing. If you have any complaints, please approach the CM or PM.’ The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation. The writing on the wall discreetly encouraged the customer to give the matter some thought while discouraging the potential customer from questioning the cost.

Then there was this message on a sheet of paper stuck on the front glass of a large car: ‘Kindly park your car properly or we will punkcher your tyre.’ The car was not moved. Overnight there was an addendum to the note: ‘I mean puncture,’ in block letters. I could sense the despair of the scribe who felt that there was no response to the memo because he had misspelt his threat. I also observed the change in the use of the first-person pronoun from plural to singular. In the coming days, the car was parked ‘properly’, without inviting more such nag notes.

Another time, a sheet of paper stuck on the elevator door read, ‘Please don’t press 2, dead end.’ I could not figure out the import. A staff member explained that the general entrance to the second floor had been sealed off because it had an internal lift that connected the first and the second floors. Therefore, if people did stop at the second floor, the door, which was still operable, would open to a wall that sealed the entrance. I understood the good intention and the dark humour behind the cautionary words.

I cannot forget another such piece of writing taped over a young neem tree. ‘You will not prosper if you use the leaves of this tree.’ According to the grapevine, the sapling had been planted by a green enthusiast only the previous year. The locals had helped themselves to every leaf that sprouted, for medicinal purposes. The tree had survived the onslaught and had unfurled its green umbrella the following spring. It was Ugadi and there was every chance of the neighbours stripping the sapling to its scrawny branches, hence the warning. The tree lover had cashed in on the power of curse to play mind games on the people who may be tempted to relieve the tree of its leaves.

These and many such memoranda that are laced with humour happen to be insightful. They reflect the genuine intent to communicate effectively and honestly. They mirror the feelings of disgust, anxiety or disapproval. They also testify the fact that the scribes of these notes have possibly failed to express their thoughts orally. They could have been timid, may have wanted to avoid open confrontation resulting in embarrassment or unpleasantness, or, they may have believed more in the power of the written word. Yet, the fact remains that they are generally put up with the expectation of seeing desired results. Oftentimes, these gems of prudence are written in English, albeit with some creative liberties taken with the Queen’s language, with the hope of reaching out to a larger number of people.

If it has not been already done, these cryptic notes can be compiled, analysed and studied. They will throw light on the human mindset, lifestyle, and thought processes of our contemporary society.