AT THE ROOT OF A COMEBACK

An NGO working with women seed savers in Sirsi is quietly pushing the cause of tubers, for all the right reasons

Can there be a revival of interest in tubers, just like millets? Sunita Rao of Vanastree would like to be hopeful. What fanned her hope was the response received by tubers at Foodu, an event held as part of the fifth Sambrama hosted by Venkatappa Art Gallery Forum in Bengaluru.

“A lot of people took tubers to plant and grow that day,” Rao joyously recalls. Vanastree, an NGO based in Sirsi, is working towards promoting traditional crop varieties, forest gardens and seed saving, and did a tuber food workshop and tasting session with Lalitha Manjunath. With hot vadappe s — prepared from boiled tapioca, rice flour, onions, dill and coriander — and holiges being served to visitors at a talk on tubers, and a table laden with different varieties of tubers — tapioca, elephant foot yam, sweet potato, dioscorea (yam), six kinds of colocasia, turmeric, ginger, sweet flag — on the side, it became a celebration of this long-forgotten food.

A tuber is a swollen, underground stem of certain seed plants, in which is stored nutrients for its growth and reproduction. Tubers can be classified into two categories: stem tubers and root tubers. While a stem tuber arises at the tip of an underground branch, a root tuber can sprout from any part of the root.

As the potato eclipsed all its other cousins, particularly in cities, the consumption of tubers got restricted to tribes in various tuber-growing regions, like Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. But it’s time we moved beyond the potato, which is vulnerable to pests and diseases and also requires more investment and attention.

“What makes tubers a special class of food is the fact that they are hardy, and have a longer shelf-life. Unlike potatoes, they are not vulnerable to diseases and pest attacks,” states Sunita.

The NGO is attempting a stronger case for the ignored vegetable, with a report titled ‘Tubers: An Overview with Prospects for Conservation’ to be published soon.

In 2014, Vanastree organised a Tuber Mela in Sirsi. “We asked Siddhi women to bring one traditional food item and they didn’t know what to bring. Very hesitantly, with low self-esteem, they brought a set of tubers. If you don’t recognise a particular community’s cuisine, it is like disrespecting them.”

COURTESY                    THE HINDU


 

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A sweet short story…


Nearby, a building construction work was going on. Lots of poor  labourers were working there and their small  children used to hold onto one another’s shirt and play “train-train”. Someone would become the engine and others would become bogies.

Every day these children used to take turns becoming the engine and bogies … But there was  one small boy wearing only a half pant who used to hold one small green cloth in his hand and become the guard daily.

Once,  I went to him and asked him ..”son , don’t u also wish to become an engine or a bogie some time ?   He softly replied ..” Sir , I don’t have a shirt to wear , so how will the other children catch me to make the train? “

I could see the slight wetness in his eyes.
It gave me a lesson…. he could have cried and sat at home and abused his parents for not affording to buy  him a shirt.   But instead he chose another way to play and enjoy.

In life, we don’t get all things we desire and we keep complaining ..I dont have a bike,  I don’t have car , I don’t have this or that etc.   Life is like that ….we need to make it beautiful and be satisfied with what we have ….

So let’s be positive and thankful to God always.
 

courtesy     whatsapp

International Kite Festival (Uttarayan)

Every year, Gujarat celebrates more than 200 festivals. The International Kite Festival (Uttarayan) is regarded as one of the biggest festivals celebrated.[1] Months before the festival, homes in Gujarat begin to manufacture kites for the festival.

The festival of Uttarayan marks the day when winter begins to turn into summer, according to the Indian calendar. It is the sign for farmers that the sun is back and that harvest season is approaching which is called Makara Sankranti. This day is considered to be one of the most important harvest day in India. Many cities in Gujarat organize kite competition between their citizens where the people all compete with each other. In this region of Gujarat and many other states, Uttarayan is such a huge celebration that it has become a public holiday in India for two days.[2] During the festival, local food such as Undhiyu (a mixed vegetable including yam and beans), sesame seed brittle and Jalebi is served to the crowds.[3][4] Days before the festival, the market is filled with participants buying their supplies. In 2012, the Tourism Corporation of Gujarat mentioned that the International Kite Festival in Gujarat was attempting to enter the Guinness World Records book due to the participation of 42 countries in it that year.[5]

The symbolism of this festival is to show the awakening of the Gods from their deep sleep. Through India’s history, it is said that India created the tradition of kite flying due to the kings and Royalties later followed by Nawabs who found the sport entertaining and as a way to display their skills and power. It began as being a sport for kings, but over time, as the sport became popular, it began to reach the masses. Kite flying has been a regional event in Gujarat for several years. However the first International Festival was celebrated in 1989 when people from all across the globe participated and showcased their innovative kites.[13][14] In the recent 2012 event, The International Kite Festival was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the presence of Governor Dr. Kamla.

During the event, kite markets are set up alongside food stalls and performers. The kites are usually made with materials such as plastic, leaves, wood, metal, nylon and other scrap materials but the ones for Uttarayan are made of light-weight paper and bamboo and are mostly rhombus shaped with central spine and a single bow.[18] Dye and paint are also added to increase the glamour of the kite. The lines are covered with mixtures of glue and ground glass which when dried, rolled up and attached to the rear, also known as firkees, become sharp enough to cut skin.[19] These types of sharp lines are used on fighter kites known in India as patangsto cut down other kites during various kite fighting events. During the night, on the second day of the festival, illuminated kites filled with lights and candles known as tukals or tukkals are launched creating a spectacle in the dark sky.[20] In Gujarat kites are made up of two types of paper that is :- 1.Simple paper kites & 2.Butter paper kites.

 

COURTESY        GOOCLE

THE BALANCING ACT

The harvest festival has a special place for women

With marriage begins a new chapter in a woman’s life, opening up a whole new world of people and emotions. It is with great struggle that the woman learns to balance both, often her new status separating her from the people with whom she grew up. Even the women in the puranas are no exception to this, if what we read about Parvati arguing with her consort to attend the yagna conducted by her father is any indication. And the way Meenakshi (Parvati) waits for her brother, Vishnu, to give her away in marriage. Flood in the Vaigai prevents the brother on horseback from reaching the venue in time — a scene, even now enacted in the Madurai festival and a favourite theme of Art.

For lesser women, any occasion to celebrate parental ties is welcome. What Rakhi is to North of India is Kanu for the women of South, especially Tamils.

The birth of Thai — the Tamil month, which heralds new hope, prosperity and goodness — is sweet for more than one reason for the woman. The simple harvest festival — hence the strong rural flavour — is common for Tamils across the world. The nip in the Margazhi air and the extended pre-dawn hours slowly give way to warmth and early light as the sun changes its course of journey.

The first farmer

Why is Pongal close to the heart of the woman? Early Tamil literature speaks of the woman as the first farmer. In charge of the family’s food needs, she had to dig the soil, sow seeds and make sure the members were fed. She grew crops and harvested when the men folk went out hunting.

Later, you would find her doing all that farming demanded. New rice, new jaggery and new clothes — families are awash with joy and optimism. But this beautiful festival, which is a salutation to Nature, is especially significant for the women of the household. The four-day festivities include the cattle around which a family’s fortune revolves.

Day Two is hers, when she offers prayers for the welfare of the brother, who in turn gifts her with auspicious articles. Happily, the custom has not disappeared from metros in the sweep of modern trends. This is a poignant aspect of a festival, which otherwise is social, involving the community. For a woman, bound by tradition and caught in the conservative network, this is a welcome opportunity to visit the sibling and if far away, pray for him.

In the pre-dawn darkness, the women lay out fresh leaves plucked from turmeric and ginger plants and place on them colourful balls of rice — all for the birds. The feast includes pieces of banana and sugar cane.

In the olden days — somewhere in the villages this must be still happening — women would chant the Tamil verse underlining the affection, which makes this ritual so earthy. The offering is to nature, the underlying thought with the home of her birth.

The day is complete, only when the woman gets her forehead streaked with fresh turmeric tuber by an older woman; this time, however, she seeks blessings for the good health of the husband and the family into which she is married. What a beautiful way to underline a woman’s position in the family and society! Ever the balancer.

COURTESY     THE HINDU

MASTER OF ALL

A look at Aziz Ansari’s comedy before he became the first Indian-origin comedian to win a Golden Globe award

On January 8, Aziz Ansari was recognised for his work in comedy, when he won the Golden Globe Award (Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series Musical/Comedy) for his Netflix show Master of None’s season two. He made history with the win — being the first Indian-origin comedian to bag the laurel — but the 34-year-old has long been packing big comedy. Whether it’s onstage doing stand-up or having a minor role in a film, Ansari’s swagger is undeniable and so are his funny chops. Here’s where you can watch more of his work.

Stand-up

With his debut comedy album (Comedy Central) in, 2010 Ansari’s aptly titled Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening gave the world plenty of jokes, but his ‘Cousin Harris’ bit stays perennially funny. With Dangerously Delicious, he mocked dating and racism including introducing us to ‘Christ Killer’, be warned isn’t an insult to Jewish people. It’s in fact a jibe at Asians (ching-chong, bing-bong, you killed Christ!). Then came Buried Alive, where he talked about having a sweater longer than the time people have dated before getting hitched; and a cruel yet hilarious jig about stepping on a kid after pushing him from behind. Most recently, was the sold-out Live at Madison Square Garden where he poked fun at how dudes never have stories about creepy women: “You never see a woman whip out her p***y”.

Roast of James Franco

Comedy Central’s roasts are outright savage and this time Ansari came armed with plenty of ammunition. He first turned the guns onto his co-stars ribbing their outdated Indian jokes before setting his sights on Franco himself. “Apparently if you’re clean, well dressed and mildly cultured you’re super gay now. If you read one book and take a shower, d***s are just gonna fly into your face.”

Saturday Night Live

At the start of last year, the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration, Ansari hosted Saturday Night Live. His hilariously fierce opening monologue talked about a “lowercase KKK movement” and remembering how he thought George W. Bush was a dildo 16 years ago before reassuring America that they’d be all right despite their choice of leadership.

Parks and Recreation

In Amy Poehler’s satirical sitcom (2009 -2015), Ansari played government employee Tom Haverford. As one of the most eccentric characters on the show — a morally lacking, skirt-chasing, highly confident wannabe entrepreneur — Ansari gave us all ‘treat yo’self’, a mantra preaching self love, along with some of the best moments in television history. Seriously, Parks and Recreation firmly holds its place as a comedy classic in the tapestry of good shows.

Every single talk show appearance

On Conan O’Brien’s show he’s doled out some vicious advice and also got women to wear a holiday gift of saris with his face plastered all over. With Jimmy Kimmel, Ansari dramatically read bad Yelp reviews and Jimmy Fallon had him analyse people’s first texts in a ‘textual experience’. There are tons of interviews including those with Stephen Colbert and Ellen Degeneres. As a bonus, check out his original web content on actor Will Ferrell’s ridiculously chuckle-worthy website Funny or Die.

COURTESY     THE HINDU

WOMAN OF ACTION

Collector of Medak District, IAS officer Bharati Hollikeri has introduced several people-friendly programmes in the district.

When IAS officer Bharati Hollikeri was posted as a District Collector for the newly formed Medak District in October 2016, it was like a homecoming for her. “I started my career as Sub-Collector in this district, so it helped me understand the topography of the place,” she shares, adding, “This is an agricultural district and people are very warm and innocent. Despite being just 100 kilometres away from Hyderabad, the two major issues plaguing the district are health and education.”

Since Medak was in the Phase-1 districts that had to implement the Open Defecation Free (ODF) programme, she battled against all odds. “Despite educating people about hygiene, toilets were their last priority. Constructing a record 58,000 toilets to make the district ODF was an uphill task, especially during demonetisation. There was a delay in funds, logistics issues, space constraints, difficulty in building toilets in rocky areas, etc. But over time, I realised that we also had to bring a behavioural change in the mindset of the people. One of the biggest challenges lies in making the beneficiaries use the toilets,” says Bharati.

Her efforts to provide lunch to the pregnant women who visit the primary health centers (PHCs) are worth mentioning. “When women visit PHCs for treatment, they usually skip their lunch as they come from far-off places and have to undergo tests. As a result, they go back to their homes starving. So I have collaborated with the local Anganwadi centres to supply food to the women in the health centres. We are also educating them on nutrition, diet, etc. at no extra cost to the exchequer,” explains Bharati, who has also brought innovative changes in the educational curriculum to ensure that learning is fun for the children.

“Primary education is very important as it’s the foundation for any child’s development. We altered the syllabus and made sure that children enjoy learning by introducing Multi Grade-Multi Level (MGML) digital classrooms, 3D materials for learning, books, blackboards, chairs and even spectacles for kids with poor vision. All this has ignited great interest among the children to come to school,” she says. A native of Belagavi district in Karnataka, Bharati says that challenging assignments have brought out the best in her. “Serving the people as Collector is a great opportunity and my passion too. My personality has changed and my thought process has widened. Every new assignment has been challenging yet a learning experience,” she says as she ascribes her success to her family. “Without their support, I would not have come this far. They stay in Hyderabad and I catch up with them during the weekends. My husband Shankar Reddy works as Assistant Director (AP and Telangana), Ministry of Tourism, Government of India,” she explains.

 

COURTESY      HYDERABAD CHRONICLE

 

A WOMAN ON THE ‘MANLY’ GHATAM

‘Frankly, I don’t think people are any more welcoming of a woman percussion player now than when I started out’

Sukanya Ramgopal has been asked more times than she could care to remember what it is like to be the first woman ghatam player in the Carnatic music tradition.

Of course it has not been easy, but the 60-year-old has dealt with it well and long enough to answer the question with a touch of humour. “I think I should thank all the male musicians who did not want a woman ghatam player as their accompanying artiste!” she says with a hearty laugh. “It compelled me to innovate and bring ghatam to the centre stage.”

Doubly marginalised

As her lone female student Sumana Chandrashekhar puts it, Sukanya is ‘doubly marginalised’ in the Carnatic music space — the ghatam is classified as an upapakkavadya (an accompanying instrument that is secondary to mridangam) and she is a woman playing it. Visually too, a woman playing ghatam (literally a pot) on stage challenges ‘all notions of the slender female body’ and defies ‘all conventional descriptions of a woman’s delicate fingers.’

But Sukanya has clearly been able to break out of the margins and stereotypes successfully.

With musicians wary of a woman playing the ‘manly’ ghatam in their concerts, Sukanya has devised a unique reinterpretation of the instrument. In 1994 she designed a performance concept she named ‘Ghata Tharang’, which involves playing six to seven ghatams of different shrutis to give it a broad melodic dimension. A year later she started Stree Taal Tarang, an all-women instrumental ensemble.

These experiments have taken her to stages across India and abroad and won her multiple accolades and has led to some particularly interesting women-centric collaborations. For instance, Sukanya has performed a stunning jugalbandi of sorts with flamenco artist Bettina Castaño.

Reminiscing about the days when a woman aspiring to learn ghatam was ‘strange’, Sukanya says that her guru Vikku Vinayakram was initially reluctant to teach her, but her persistence won him over. The music school started by his father Harihara Sharma, Sri Jaya Ganesh Talavadya Vidyalaya, was in Triplicane, Chennai, where Sukanya lived. There she learnt mridangam first but was soon drawn to ghatam. Her guru, who at first said that the instrument is ‘too hard for a girl’, was impressed with her dedication and prowess.

But the tough part came when she had to step into the world of kutcheriswith all its hierarchies and prejudices. There were many instances of music sabhas, vocalists and even percussion artistes refusing to have a woman ghatam player on stage.

Reluctant to get into details or drop names, Sukanya says that the situation is no better now. “Frankly, I don’t think people are any more welcoming of a woman percussion player now than when I started out. In fact I would even say that the older generation of artistes were a little more generous compared to many today.”

Mega ensemble

This undercurrent of hostility is perhaps one of the reasons why Sumana is the lone woman student among the 20-odd students at Sri Vikku Vinayakram School for Ghatam that Sukanya runs in Bengaluru. While there are few ghatam learners, there are fewer women among those. When Sukanya put together an ensemble of 83 ghatam artistes in Bengaluru recently, to mark her guru’s 75th birthday, there were only four women on stage, including herself.

In the hope of enthusing more people, particularly women, to take to this earthy instrument, Sukanya has also written a book, Sunaadam, The Vikku Bani of Ghatam Playing, a learner’s guide. “Let’s hope things get better,” she says, with genuine optimism.