Category Archives: Celebrations

Shri Thal, Jaipur: A great place of everything Rajasthani, fun, food, peace, ambiance, music, hospitality!

Amidst all these stressful times when there are talks of Covid19 all over, round the clock, it is difficult to keep yourself aloof from the surroundings. We are confined at home 24×7 for many days, which for people like me who like to talk, host tea, lunches, dinners and most importantly taking morning and evening walks are feeling the heat beyond measure. Travel is out of the question, don’t know till when.

Hence, I decided to share with you the wonderful evening with my cousin Aarti and her husband Mohit in Jaipur. When I expressed the desire of eating daal, baati, choorma, she planned this outing for me. I fully trusted them for their choice and voila! What a choice it turned out to be!! It became a memorable evening!!!

Around 8 PM on 25th January we reached Shri Thal which looked to me mini chowki dhaani. Incidentally, the place belongs to Aarti’s good friend Ms Nidhi Upadhyay, a first-generation women entrepreneur with many prestigious awards in her thaali. We were accorded a very warm and traditional welcome at Shri Thal with their service staff. The seating arrangement was informal – Moodhas and Manjis and we were served raab as a welcome drink.

Shri Thal Village Restaurant, Jaipur is a Rajasthani Village in the City. This concept & idea of Village Theme Restaurant in the City came to Mrs. Nidhi Upadhyay’s (Managing Director – Shri Thal Village) mind looking at the busy lifestyle of Jaipurites, where it is practically not possible to get out of the city to experience the village ambience. For them, Shri Thal Village is an ideal place to enjoy ethnic Rajasthani Food, Village games & fun etc. The Restaurant is located on Queens Road in Vaishali Nagar, which is in the heart of Jaipur accessible from anywhere within 15-20 minutes of drive.

So, something about the ambience, it has a mini fort-like façade and a huge entrance door with a mud wall village structure with traditional mandana painted all over the walls, dry grass clad huts, water bodies & fountains. It is lit up in the night lit up with traditional lamps & village statues.  It has Entrance Munim (Cashier) Counter Hut, Gaming Zone Huts for Shooting the Baloon, Ring Game, Chai Ki Thadi etc. There are 3 dining halls named after Rajasthani Folk Dances as Ghumar, Ghorbandh and Panihari.

What to say of Rajasthani cuisine meticulously designed by Nidhi herself who is a culinary expert and a passionate food presenter which included Jaipuri Aloo Pyaz ki Subzi & Dal Panchmel, Bikaneri Papad Mangdi, Jodhpuri Gatte, Traditional Dal Bati Churma, Bajri ka Khichda, Rajasthani Kadhi, 2 Types of Chutneys (Coriander & Garlic), Snacks like Moong Dal Kachori, Kofta, Mini Samosa, Jalebi, Rabdi Malpua etc. Wow! I was confused to the core, what to eat, what not to eat. Aarti helped me with that, I had a great time relishing food and hospitality of the people there.

I and Aarti danced to the beats of Dhol and some other traditional instruments, watched Kathputli dance sitting on Manji with childlike enthusiasm. It was an evening, where my mind was empty and heart full…there is so much to be enjoyed, which we waste in unnecessary complications of life.

No wonder, Nidhi Upadhyay has been awarded “Corporate Diva Award” by FM Tadka – Rajasthan Patrika Group for Shri Thal Village Concept in an award ceremony at the Hotel Marriott, Jaipur.

idhi came to Jaipur after 14 years of marriage from Jodhpur, originally belonging to Kota. During these years she received many job offers from hotels & schools, as word had spread about her talent for cooking, but she could not take it up due to home priorities. But as kids had grown up, thus her husband Ajay, who had been admiring her talent all through, thought of opening a restaurant for Nidhi in Jaipur by the name of Shri Thaal Village. It was gifted to her on her 14th wedding anniversary i.e. 9th May 2011.

What a tribute from a loving husband for her talented wife!

Way to go Nidhi!!

If you are in Jaipur, mark it in your itinerary.

 

Glass Apart: My LOVE for Glass Bangles!

मेरे हाथों में नौ नौ चूड़ियां है…

The precious leave of Holi was utilised in a very unusual activity, taking account (Style, Design, Colour, Numbers – Total Audit) of the Bangles I have in my cupboard. I wanted to organise these as I was repeating my bangles quite often…

…& I don’t like doing that! I am a self-confessed bangle freak!!

I love to wear new bangles every day, matching it with the outfit, though it doesn’t go that way. So, cupboard cleaning and organising took a few hours but it was worth it. For the first time, I noticed my collection of glass bangles, bought from the length and breadth of the country. They were parked the same way as offloaded carefully from the flight, without even checking what and how many bangles I had bought.

My personal collection

My love for glass bangles dates back to my childhood when an old gentleman used to come to sell glass bangles in his daliya (cane basket), neatly tied by a sootli (thin rope) in such a manner, so that design colour etc. was clearly visible. My mother use to buy lots of bangles from him whenever he came. (Maybe it is genetic). I was a very curious child always, so I asked many questions from bangle seller – Naccha! So, what is Naacha now – Mummy use to call him chacha, I called him naana, so he became Nachha (Naana – Chacha) for all ladies in the colony! I don’t know what he thought about this new nomenclature.

Questions like: Bangles are made of what, how do you colour them? How do you put sequins on them? Why do you bring these in cane basket? Are these heavy? Why do you sell bangles? He patiently replied all my queries while selling his bangles to colony aunties, sipping hot tea. Once his sale was over, he will give me a few free bangles and my joy in knew no bounds. Probably, the love dates back to the incident, which I suddenly recollected while sorting my bangle collection today…real nostalgia!

My glass bangle collection has travelled from far-flung areas, across the length and breadth of the country right from Katra, Jammu to Hyderabad, AP traversing Delhi ( Pracheen Mandir Bangle Bazaar, Delhi Haat, Janpath, Sarojini Nagar, Lajpat Nagar) Jaipur, Varanasi, Allahabad, Lucknow, Dehradun, Rishikesh, Hardwar, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bhopal, Kolkatta ( Shankha Poda), Assam, Ahmedabad, Surat, Baroda, Kutch, Bhuj…

Even international destinations are not spared: London, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Guangzhou, Bangkok…I have bought whatever in the name of bangle available there! (needs a separate post)

You will be surprised to know that I always carry a sheet of bubble wrap to pack my bangles so that they can survive the wrath of airline people. Before planning a trip, I never forget to check from where I can buy bangles. Over a period of time, I realised that bangles are becoming my passion, rather obsession! By nature, I am a very content person, I don’t like to hoard stuff for the heck of it, but I can’t control when bangles cross my eyes. I want to shop, come what may and most of the time I do that. I remember my bua saying: बिंदी, चूड़ी के लिए क्या सोचना!

That has stayed with me. I never give a thought to anything while buying bangles. I am sharing a few pictures from my collection. I love wearing them especially with traditional outfits on all occasions, on all festivals. Sometimes I decide the bangles first and then match the saree or dress. If I something misplaced, I feel very agitated.

The history of bangles dates back to Mohen-jo-daro days, 2600 BC when these were found in excavation and statues were found wearing them. In India Ferozabad in UP, near Agra is very famous for glass bangles and supplies to the world. The bangles of Firozabad are exceptionally made, so intricate, so colourful, so fine… It is one of a kind cluster producing bangles and catering to the growing demands and requirement in India, there is approximately 150 bangle making in the city.

We Indians love bangles, the love of Bollywood for bangles is part of the folklore, haven’t we grown up hearing songs like:

चूड़ी नहीं मेरा दिल है, बिंदिया चमकेगी चूड़ी खनकेगी, मेरे हाथों में नौ नौ चूड़ियां है, बोले चूड़ियां बोले कंगना

No celebration is complete without bangles, No Shringar is complete without bangles! Life is a celebration, celebrate it with anything you love!

My special thanks to Sai Vandana, Aarti Mohit Mathur, Aparna Chaturvedi and Hemlata Didi who have patiently tolerated my madness, added to the collection in whichever ways possible.

Last but not the least my dear Mummy, Usha Varma for introducing to the finer things in life!

 

 

 

 

 

JLF, DAY 2: Impressive line up of literary events, stimulating talks!

Day two of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 kept up the momentum set so effectively on the eventful first day. There was tremendous diversity in sessions, speakers, and themes in the programming of the day. “Morning Music” on the 2nd day of the Festival was performed by acclaimed classical Carnatic veena artist Vidushi Saraswati Rajagopalan. She began her set with Raga Saraswati – an ode to Goddess Saraswati, the patron deity of music, art and literature, which was an appropriate beginning to the second day of one of the world’s grandest literature festivals.


session-38_shubha-mudgal-in-coversation-with-sudha-sadhanand

In conversation with editor Sudha Sadanand, the acclaimed vocalist Shubha Mudgal read from and spoke about her debut collection of short stories, Looking for Miss Sargam, and the traditions, realities and contradictions that a musician typically straddles and set them against the realities of her own narratives.

Francesca Cartier Brickell, a direct descendant of the Cartier family, has recently published a book titled The Cartiers: The Untold Story of the Family Behind the Jewellery Empire. Her book launch was conducted at the NEXA Front Lawn of the Diggi Palace at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 and the session was anchored by Editor-in-Chief of Literary Publishing of Penguin Random House India, Meru Gokhale. The book was launched by Diya Kumari, Member of Parliament.

Speaking at the session Diya Kumari said, “It is an absolute pleasure and an honour to be here at the launch of the book The Cartiers. The family name is synonymous with outstanding craftsmanship, creativity and a long history with numerous royal families, including mine. And I’d like to thank everyone associated with the book to have invited me here. I am looking forward to reading what I am sure is a fascinating story of the family. And all my very best for the success of the book. Thank you!

Anay Saxena wrote his first book, Time Adventures: The Jackson Menace, when he was seven. His most recent work is a collection of three short stories titled What a Mysterious World We Live In. Today, Anay Saxena was in conversation with much loved children’s author Deepa Agarwal discussing his work.

Bestselling-author Howard Jacobson talked about his new book Live a Little, which is the love story of a 90-year-old woman. Age, according to Jacobson, is not an impediment to love, though literature has been “very unforgiving” of old age. Jacobson went on to say, “The most intelligent people I know are in their 90s” and explained “…if you can allow your body to decay, you can concentrate on your mind!”  The eroticism in this love story is only suggested. This is because Jacobson thinks that “the body is overrated”, and therefore he wants to start a movement against people writing about sex. “Sex makes words look foolish, words make sex look absurd,” he said. Jacobson felt that the shame and humiliation a novelist experiences can be an asset.  “Embrace your shame and write about it,” was his advice to the audience.

A session on memoirs opened up a treasure trove of backstories. Nicholas Coleridge, former editorial director of Condé Nast Britain, had the audience in splits when he recalled Princess Diana asking him at a lunch, “Nicholas, please be frank, I want to know your real view. Are my breasts too small, do you think?”  “Your Royal Highness,” he responded, “they seem, umm, perfect to me.”   He drew a crucial distinction – “A memoir is what you remember, otherwise it is an autobiography!”

Talking more about memoirs, the English broadcaster and author of My Name Is Why, Lemn Sissay, spoke with emotion about his life as a foster child, the meaning of his name and the sources he used to write his own memoir.  He said his book recounted the trauma that his mother went through.  “It’s really not my story,” he said. A journalist known for her accounts of life in war-zones, Åsne Seierstad, said that to work on American history of the last 100 years, she had had to look at the changes the US faced and wished for her source to be personal and family stories.  So, she began to look at her personal letters, the letters of her grandfather. Avi Shlaim talked about his book Three Worlds: Memoir of an Arab Jew and spoke with intensity about his identity as an Arab-Jew and his life-experiences in Baghdad, Israel and London. His main source of information was his 96-year-old mother.

Lisa Ray, India’s first supermodel, actor, mother of twins through surrogacy and a cancer survivor, spoke to ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival producer and Managing Director of Teamwork Arts, Sanjoy K. Roy about her riveting life story and memoir, Close to the Bone, a deeply moving account of her healing and spiritual quest. She spoke about how identity to her was tectonic and rooted in movement, embodied by her own peripatetic life.

In the session “Winners Take it All” Anand Giridharadas said “rich people are making a killing in a way that is strangulating democracy”, and this rendered their claims of benevolence invalid.  Giridharadas went on to say said that “they do just enough good to preserve a system that does harm on a much larger scale”. This system, he said is “the old trickle-down economics with whipped cream and a cherry on top”. Thus, according to him, we are looking at a systematic problem and we need to ask ourselves, “Should we even have billionaires?” He claimed that “every billionaire is a policy failure”. Their wealth could finance a lot of services that people in democratic countries are entitled to, but are not getting.

The day ended with the announcement of the prestigious Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize, a first of its kind award for brilliance in book design and an attempt by the iconic bookstore to recognise and encourage the work of gifted illustrators, designers and publishers throughout India. The winner of the fifth edition of the award announced at Jaipur BookMark was well-known graphic designer Sneha Pamneja who was felicitated with a trophy and a cash prize of Rs. 1 lakh by jurors Dr. Shashi Tharoor, Namita Gokhale and Shobhaa De, amidst a gathering of designers, publishers and book-lovers. The announcement was followed by a cocktail reception hosted by Oxford Bookstore honouring the winner.

 

ZEE Jaipur Literary Fest 2020 – & I was part of Grandest Literary Show on Earth!

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020 took place from 23rd – 27th January 2020 at the Diggi Palace Hotel, Jaipur, Rajasthan.

No words are enough to describe the magic of JLF, as it is popularly known, which is a sort of mecca for literary buffs. I was surprised to find such a huge congregation of literature lovers from all over the world, yes world, not India alone! The colours, the vibrancy, the aura, the aroma and enigmatic atmosphere of the place – Heritage structure – Diggi Palace were truly splendid.

Inaugural Ceremony JLF

No wonder, JLF is hailed as one of grandest literary worldwide, the ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival 2020, which is held at iconic abode, the Diggi Palace lawns and aptly lives up to its tradition of providing access to a gamut of ‘stories’ – fearless, funny, tender, fantastical, true-to-life, fiery, equivocal, atypical and every day – to all.

The magnitude of programming remained as astonishing as every year with over 500 speakers and performers representing around 15 Indian and 35 international languages and over 30 nationalities as well as major literary awards ranging from the Nobel, the Man Booker, the Pulitzer, the Sahitya Akademi, DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and Commonwealth Book Prize.

After a lot of deliberations, discussions and apprehensions, I boarded the flight to Jaipur and believe me I couldn’t have been happier with my decision. Aarti and Mohit were there to receive me at the airport for the early morning flight and there was not a single dull moment in their company. They were my constant companion for the next five days, which I will always cherish!

After reaching Jaipur and gorging on hot breakfast and tea made by Aarti and her loving mother-in-law, we set out for Diggi Palace, Jaipur and my brush with real intellectuals on this planet began. My first session was with humble and unassuming Mr Prasoon Joshi who was in a very vibrant conversation with Ms Vani Tripathi Tikkoo. After that what all followed, you will get to read in the following posts.

The venue was brimming with activities of culturally inclined people who were dressed in their traditional best, giving a different vibe to the whole place. Indigo Kurtas, Ikat Sarees, Bandhnis, Bandhej, Pashmina Shawls, Jaipuri Stoles, Handloom sarees, Kalamkari dresses, jackets…whatnot. Their sense of dressing was really impressive and I must say that they had put a lot of thought to their dressing by teaming up with traditional silver and metal jewellery like chandelier earrings, multi-layered neckpieces, bangles, anklets and what to say of nose rings.

One notable thing amidst all this was that not even in a single panel discussion it was announced that “Please keep your mobile phone in silent mode” as it was given and to my utter surprise, not even a single mobile rang. This is the discipline followed by the intelligentsia in Jaipur.

The venue boasted Art Zone where artists were painting and most loved (by me at least) was Pool Bazaar which displayed stalls of jewellery, bags, shawls, mojris, handmade notebooks, handicrafts, sarees, dupatta, kurta, Kurtis…where I shopped to my heart’s content…but it was like Yeh Dil Maange More! Then there was book bazar selling books by authors whose launch was happening at the fest along with many others. I wish I could buy some more…

Only thing which was restrictive that many sessions were happening simultaneously at different venues so we had to skip one in favour of others. I wanted to be at both the sessions sometimes but that was not the possibility. Listening to speakers of the stature of Shashi Tharoor, Prasoon Joshi, Lisa Ray, Shobha De, Margaret Alwa, William Dalrymple, Sanjay K Roy, Ashwin Sanghi, Namita Gokhale and many more, nonstop amidst pin-drop silence followed by crowds swelling to over thousand, was an experience in itself.

Mikes, Venue, Press-gallery, volunteers help and overall management was top notch. There was no disturbance from any side, you were guided well all through by an over-enthusiastic team of Team Works, ample food stalls and hot tea was available round the clock. Yes, you could shop only through your debit/ credit cards as dealing in cash was not permitted. Please make a note of it.

Such huge crowds were managed so well, kudos!

Few highlights:

  • Inauguration by CM of Rajasthan, Mr Ashok Gehlot
  • Jaipur Music Stage runs parallel to the Festival from 23rd – 25th January at Clarke’s Amer featuring headliners including Gavin James, Ricky Kej, Lisa Marie Simmons, Aabha Hanjura, Parvaaz, amongst others.
  • 7th edition of the B2B arm of the Festival, Jaipur BookMark (JBM), began on 22nd January with a keynote address from writer and publisher Jo Lendle as he went through the first 20 pages of the publishing manual for the new decade
  • The Festival’s ongoing Youth Outreach programme with Yuva Ekta Foundation and School Outreach programme with Pratham Books continues to engage a large number of children and young people.

The Festival began on Thursday, January 23rd with the inaugural keynote address by renowned author Marcus du Sautoy and acclaimed Hindustani vocalist Shubha Mudgal on ‘The Art, Sciences and Creativity’.

Inaugural Address by CM Ashok Gehlot.

Present were some of the world’s best thinkers and writers: Nobel laureate Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, the Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Man-Booker-winner Howard Jacobson, author of over sixteen novels including his most recent, Live a Little, that has been described by The Guardian as ‘wonderful’ and by The Sunday Times as ‘joyous’; Forrest Gander, eminent translator and author of the Pulitzer-winning collection of poems Be With; Paul Muldoon, author of Moy Sand and Gravel, for which he won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize; Pulitzer winner Stephen Greenblatt, author of 14 books including Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power, The Swerve: How the World Became Modern and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare; Ramon Magsaysay Award winner Ravish Kumar, India’s well-known and intrepid TV anchor, journalist and writer; Ruchira Gupta, Emmy-winning journalist and activist.

Can any festival be grander than that?

  • Special thanks to Aarti & Mohit Mathur

  • First-hand account of the fest by Bienu Verma Vaghela 

GUJJU CARNIVAL – GUJARATI FOOD FESTIVAL

मैं सोचती हूँ इस विषय पर ज़्यादा कुछ लिखना बनता नहीं है
गुजराती फ़ूड फेस्टिवल – गुजरातियों के जमन प्रेम का आइना है
खाना ही खाना सब तरफ – चाय, मुख वास, फरसाण, कथिआ वाड़ी थाली, १११ प्रकार की खिचड़ी दाल ढोकली, खीचियो, खामनी, हंडवा, ढोकला, थेपला, खकरा … और भी बहुत कुछ!

गुजराती अपने जमन (खाना) प्रेम के लिए मशहूर हैं…और ऐसे ही मशहूर नहीं हैं.
गुजराती लोक गीत संगीत गरबा डांडिया DJ आदि से सुसज्जित यह फेस्टिवल इन गुजराती लोगो बल्कि सब लोगो के लिए खूब रंग जमाया. मैं विशेष उल्लेख श्री गोपाल शेट्टी जी का करना चाहूंगी जिनका अपने एरिया में ऐसा उत्सव करने में विशेष योगदान है. क्या फर्राटे दार गुजराती बोलते हैं.

श्री प्रशांत रओ जिन्होंने बहुत ही खूबसूरत एंकरिंग से सबका मन मोह लिया.
मैंने GFF के पासेज जीते थे और अपनी मित्रों और परिवार के साथ यहाँ खूब आनंद उठाया. मसाले, मुखवास, खाखरा, चाय, फरसाण, ज्वेलरी आदि बहुत कुछ ख़रीदा. अब मैं जयपुर फेस्टिवल में राजस्थान का लुत्फ़ उठाउंगी. EK महीने में मेरे दो प्रिये राज्यों के उत्सव का आनंद.

और क्या चाहिए!

JaipurLitFest 2020 presents a convergence of cultures, languages and literatures

The ‘greatest literary show on Earth’, the Jaipur Literature Festival, returns with its 13th edition. Scheduled from 23rd – 27th January, the Festival this year promises an unmatched programme featuring over 300 speakers from over 20 countries and 35 languages.

Authors from nations such as the Czech Republic, Mauritius, Netherlands, Sweden and Nigeria will see representation at the Festival. As each year, several Indian, American, British, French and German authors, will round up the Festival programme.

Prominent speakers from across the world include Anita Aujayeb, a long-standing educator, a lecturer and also the Chairperson of the President’s Fund for Creative Writing at the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Heritage in Mauritius; Annick Schrammei, Academic Director for the Creative Industries at the Antwerp Management School, expert- advisor for cultural policy and an evaluator for the European Commission and also a member of the Flemish UNESCO Commission; poet, essayist, editor, photographer and founder of Ireland’s premier literary journal Irish Pages: A Journal of

Contemporary Writing Chris Agee; author of books on Burmese and Asian History, past fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, founder and chairman of the Yangon Heritage Trust, Chairman of U Thant House and Padma Shri recipient Thant Myint- U.

The Festival will also see 20 international and 15 Indian languages such as Khasi, Assamese and Nagamese being highlighted.

Namita Gokhale, the writer, publisher and Co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival said, “Every year, we have various authors from different parts of the world, representing different nationalities and languages in attendance at the Festival. This year, once again, we have endeavoured to get as many speakers from varying genres and languages to attend. I believe we have succeeded in our efforts as stalwarts from over 20 countries and as many as 20 international and almost 15 Indian languages will be in attendance at the 13th edition of the Festival. We are eagerly looking forward to welcoming them and to the literary revelations they will bring with them.”

The much-awaited Festival is set to take place at its customary picturesque home, the Diggi Palace Hotel at Jaipur. In the past decade, the Festival has evolved into a global phenomenon and has hosted nearly 2000 speakers and over a million book-lovers till date. Every year, it brings together authors, thinkers and bibliophiles from across the world to champion the freedom to dream, express and debate.

 

Celebrate the authentic Gujarati Food & Everything else Gujarati!!

Most keenly awaited Festival is here, which has excited everyone associated with Gujarati food and festivities. I love the ideology of Gujjus, who are the happiest lot on this planet – खावानु, पीवणो, जलसा करवा नु!

With this biggest Gujarati Food Festival, the idea of the food festival is primarily to re-integrate value back into Food Culture & to Communicate Gastronomic knowledge about GUJARATI FOOD. Gujarati Food Festival will fill your stomach as well as your Heart & Mind.

The festival is all set to happen on 10-11-12 January at Kora Kendra Ground No 3 RM Bhattad Rd, Haridas Nagar, Borivali West, Mumbai 400092. Its time to serve the unexplored flavours of Gujarat and triumph the extraordinary culture with the tastiest delicacies.

My association with Gujarati Food started with my marriage in a Gujarati family some 25 years ago. Till then while living in Delhi and Lucknow, I knew nothing about Gujarati food and culture except that Gandhiji and Sardar Patel were Gujaratis. I am born in a Varma – Kayasth family and self – admittedly I am a true-blue Kayasth.

My eyes opened to the fact that Gujaratis and Kayasths are poles apart in their culture, cuisines, lifestyle and thought process, immediately after marriage. Rest of things later – cuisine part first. A typical Gujju family’s day starts with a discussion on food for nasta, lunch, nasta and dinner…means discussion on food, nothing beyond…particularly ladies amongst the house. Whereas our day started with news, the book we will read, the place we would visit, studies and food remained in the periphery. Though Kayasth’s love for food is part of folklore, about that sometime later…

My vocabulary about food enriched in no time with my mother-in-law churning out some interesting and delicious stuff like Thepla, Khakra, Phaphda, Khaman, Dhokla, Chora Phari, Magaj, Batata-nu-shak, pharsi poori, Undhiyo, Khandwo and believe me, I loved these beyond measure, though these were not part of my vocabulary till then. My sister-in-law, Hemlata didi needs a special mention here who is an expert cook of Gujarati delicacies and helped me in developing taste and understanding Gujarati culture.

But I was stuck in one place, in North-India, I had never heard about meethi daal and gur in every second subzi as North Indian food is all about spices and tadka. I don’t know how to relish that…I would simply refuse to eat. Then there were certain strange combinations like sweet lapsi (cooked porridge) to be eaten with theekhi daal. I simply revolted!

But over a period of time, as time passed, I integrated with the cuisine and everything else Gujarati read: Garba and Dandiya nights which was quite a revelation. I was star-struck with the performance of Falguni Pathak where thousands of Gujjus grooved to her dandiya beats. I refused to come home from that night and I danced my heart out that day. I had never seen anything like this before.

I want to revisit those days when I wanted to explore everything Gujarati and every single day I came to know about a new thing about Gujaratis. My love for Gujarati food took a new dimension when I visited Ahmedabad, Baroda, Surat, Bhuj and many other interiors of Gujarat. As a self-confessed foodie, I can Gujarati’s love for food is phenomenal. If a Gujarati is accompanying you for travel, you need not worry about food – my husband, Mukund Vaghela tops the chart.

I must mention: I am the winner of Gujarati Food Festival contest, what more I could have asked for being a non-Gujarati!

See you all there!!

 

550th Prakash Parv celebrations turned out truly special for me!

नानक नाम चढ़ दी कला, तेरे बाने सरबत दा भला

November 12, 2019 – The day was truly blessed as the world celebrated  550th Prakash Parv – Birthday of Guru Nanak Devji. We are also blessed that this very special day came in our lifetime.

Day’s program was set with a visit to Gurudwara in the morning for darshan, kirtan, aarti, seva, bhog and langar. I set out for Gurudwara in the morning and what a day it turned out to be. The kirtan in the morning hours was a heavenly experience. Having lived in Delhi for many many years, I understand Punjabi well so I could understand the Path and Kirtan. Being in Mumbai, I hadn’t visited a Gurudwara ever, till my friend Anu Bhateja took me there one fine morning.

I am fortunate to have many visits since…

Once again, Anu was instrumental in planning the day at Gurudwara. I loved being part of the morning rituals, till afternoon, when we returned home after having sumptuous langar. How graciously and generously the food is served by sevaks, can’tbe described in words.

After taking some rest, once again I got ready to be the part of evening Aarti, Gurbani, Kirtan, Seva and Langar with my daughter Tanya in tow. I wanted her to be part of this unmissable divine experience as a representative of Gen X.

In the evening, Gurudwara was overflowing with devotees and I must say what phenomenal management skills were at play. Right from 8-year-old to 80 years olds were involved in doing seva, serving langar, managing thousands of footwear, guiding devotees, managing crowds, distributing prasad…whatnot.

I hope and wish that other religious places also take some lessons from our Gurudwaras where devotees are treated like prince and princesses. In Babaji’s darbar, everyone was ONE. There was no discrimination on any ground, everyone followed queue, be it for darshan or langar.

Many people greeted me, not even knowing me, they just thought that they were greeting a fellow devotee.

Evening kirtan was by Bhaiji’s from Jammu Gurudwara and it was just out of this world. Their rendition of beautiful thoughts of Nanak Dev ji was simply divine. I was totally into it!

Now was the time for evening langar, which became enjoyable after some initial chaos but it was worth it. We enjoyed it very much. Tanya had eaten langar for the first time and she enjoyed it very much. While returning we brought along a very special memento of Babaji which will stay with us forever beside his special blessings.

The day was special in one more way as my dearest and lovely and only brother Prabhat was born on this great day and is imbibed with many special values. I faintly remember his birth as a child when I returned from Gurudwara with my bua after Guru Purab celebrations, my grandmother told me, “Bhaiya aaya hai.”

Guru Nanak Jayanti is celebrated on the full moon day of Kartik month, also known as Kartik Poornima. This year, followers of Guru Nanak celebrated the Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 12 (Tuesday).

To mark the celebration, Sikhs start doing Prabhat Pheris 15 days before the celebration. Two days before the birthday, Akhand Path (a forty-eight-hour non-stop reading of the Guru Granth Sahib) is held in the Gurdwaras. A day prior to the birthday, a procession, referred to as Nagarkirtan, is organised.

I wish to celebrate Guru Purab someday at Golden Temple Amritsar.

Such a wonderful day of my life!

 

#ShinningBloggers #TorchBearers Awarded, an evening to remember!

What started as an apprehensive nomination for Bloggers from all over India, turned out to be a memorable event for bloggers,  and authors (torch bearers). Millennial Worx from Lucknow instituted these awards to honour bloggers and torchbearers for the first time. When I saw my name in the list of nominated bloggers, I was happy. Then the process of voting started and I must admit that my friends, family, acquaintances, old colleagues, closely connected, loosely connected, remotely connected all voted for me happily…right from my brother-in-law Atul Vaghela in the US to my friend Aroma Ahuja in Meerut, Western UP.  My special gratitude to all of them for this sweet gesture. Above all BIG thank you to Millennial Worx for this special recognition, which will remain truly special in my life!

I am based out of Mumbai, and the event was in Lucknow, capital of UP and my home town, I wanted to make it! As all the communication was going on mails and social media with Millennial Worx, I was not feeling confident about making it to the event. Now, I dug deeper, I got a phone number to hear the actual voice, which was of founder Dr Raveesh Shrivastava, this conversation firmed my decision and here I was all set to go to Lucknow. Tickets were booked in a jiffy…after landing Lucknow…I could not contain my excitement, Amausi airport, which was like a runway in a village had transformed into swanky Chowdhury Charan Singh International Airport.

The road outside the airport leading to the main road was flooded which looked like a swimming pool due to rains, we had to walk our way with great difficulty to the car. The way was slippery, muddy, watery, many people were about to miss their flights as there was a big jam outside due to BJP UP President’s arrival at the airport. There was a caravan of 3-4 thousand cars with BJP workers on both sides of the road. This caused a lot of inconvenience to flyers from Lucknow, hope they had not missed their flight. I think all political parties should avoid such roadshows which create huge traffic jams outside any public place. I reached Lucknow from Mumbai in 2:15 minutes and home in Indira Nagar in 2:30 hours. Can it be worse? I was delighted to meet my extended family who received me with a lot of warmth. I was brimming with joy…

…finally, the keenly awaited moment! Sunday evening – July 21, 4 PM I reached the office of Millennial Works located near Dainik Jagran Circle where everybody was already present. Dr Raveesh Shrivastava received me personally and Ms Meetika Shrivastava greeted me with her infectious smile. The program started with the welcome address by Meetika, where she disclosed the details of the awards.

Talented team member Shubhangi Shrivastava presented beautiful fusion kathak, something which I had never seen before. The program progressed and torchbearers, Senior Member Mr V.K. Joshi, Director GSI received the trophy and citation from Dr Raveesh Shrivastava and Ms Meetika. In his address, he reminisced the days of learning computers on 286 and how his journey as an author began and progressed with the progress of technology.

Now was the turn of Award to Dr Nitya Prakash who had travelled from Guna, MP and has been credited for authoring 10 books and making four films. His journey was truly inspirational, who left his rewarding corporate job in Mumbai to listen to the calling of his heart – writing. I must say he is a very accomplished writer for his young age.

I was first to receive the prize in the Bloggers category and couldn’t contain my excitement for this special moment. For the first time, my Blog was receiving an award, love, labour, not lost!

I shared my journey as a blogger amidst the presence of bloggers, influencers, torch-bearers, team and press. It was a very nicely organised awards function, quite a deviation from Mumbai’s glamour laden award functions. I enjoyed all the performances. Many awardees who could not make it to the event, were connected through a video conference call.

Meetika’s address and interaction were very inspiring!

The surprise element was #NawabDrummers performance on drums, who is just six years old and many records are there to his credit for being the fastest drummer. I must say, he played beautifully Saare Jahan se accha and National anthem. He is a child prodigy indeed! I made few friends there, freaked out a selfie zone and struck some nice conversation with Dr Shrivastava. As soon as I posted the award on FB, I started receiving calls from the US, UK, Mumbai, Delhi, Varanasi, Lucknow, MP, Agra…all over.

I must say the team of Millennial Worx helmed by Dr Raveesh Shrivastava was very friendly, polite and respectful. Meetika met me as we had known each other from ages…looking very graceful in a saree!

…Look forward to many more such occasions with Millennial Worx. Feels nice when you receive recognition for the work which you started as a hobby and culminated into a passion.

My advice to young bloggers: Be original, Write from the heart!

 

Memories of Mehrangarh Fort alive, once again!

PeeCee Wedding Wows in Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur, ultimate wedding destination!

Circa 2018, Date December 1, when all eyes are on Jodhpur which has moved from being a historical town in Rajasthan to preferred GLOBAL wedding destination of none other than Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas.

With this comes alive vivid memories of the marriage of my cousin Aarti’s wedding to Mohit in Jodhpur nearly five years ago, which, our entire clan called “Gwalior Gharana” attended. What to say of hospitality extended by dear Suman Bua and Phoophaji. It was beautiful weather in February when we were privy to the beautiful Rajasthani wedding which was a beautiful amalgamation of show and soul…

Now that International superstar Priyanka Chopra has zeroed in on Jodhpur for her marriage to American pop singer Nick Jonas, once again Jodhpur is in the limelight. Though Deepika and Ranveer chose a villa in far-flung Italy, PeeCee scores more points for choosing regal and historical Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhavan palace.

When Aarti’s marriage ceremony got over, my phoophaji advised us to visit Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhavan Palace which had already caught my fancy while coming to my dear Suman bua’s home for Aarti’s marriage. He arranged a vehicle for us and very next morning we were out to visit Mehrangarh Fort. Though tired because of marriage ceremonies, I was quite excited to visit the fort which looked so imposing to me while driving around the beautiful Rajasthan city of Jodhpur. Moreover, I have a fetish for forts and I may be credited for visiting several forts of India across States. The palaces in Rajasthan are truly royal and magnificent and it is very difficult to rate them on these parameters. Every fort has its own charm and a story to tell, the only common thread being Rajasthani Culture and architecture. Every fort awe-inspiring, leaving you to spellbound. The story is the same here, when accompanied by my husband Mukund, who was like – Oh another fort, another steep climb, guide telling Raja Rani Kahaniyan…tiring day!

The pre-wedding functions for PeeCee and Nick will unfold over three days, beginning on November 30 and culminating with a wedding (both Christian and Hindu) on December 1 and 2. I have come to know that Priyanka’s sangeet ceremony will be held at the magnificent Mehrangarh Fort, while the Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel, also in Jodhpur, has been chosen as the nuptial venue.

The Mehrangarh Fort has been known to host high profile events – the enormous 14th-century fort was rented out for Elizabeth Hurley and Arun Nayar’s wedding reception in 2007, and Naomi Campbell’s lavish birthday bash for ex-boyfriend Vladimir Doronin’s 50th birthday. The red sandstone fort, known as the Citadel of the Sun, is built at a height of 125 metres above the city and is surrounded by imposing and intricately carved thick walls. The fort is known for its expansive courtyards and features seven entry gates. The most famous of these gates is the Jaya Pol, constructed by Maharaja Man Singh to celebrate his success over the armies of Jaipur and Bikaner. Fatteh Pol, which also means victory gate, was raised by Maharaja Ajit Singh to celebrate the defeat of the Mughals. The fort also houses several other structures such as the Moti Mahal (Pearl Palace), Phool Mahal (Flower Palace), Sheesha Mahal (Mirror Palace), Sileh Khana, Daulat Khana, and one of Rajasthan’s most well-stocked museums, the Mehrangarh Museum.

I spent quite a lot of time in Mehrangarh Fort and believe me every moment was worth it.

Wish Priyanka Chopra well for her regal marriage ceremony in Mehrangarh Fort in Jodhpur.