October 16, 2021

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Sunday Long Reads: Rashtrapati Bhavan’s kitchen, legacy of dancer Astad Deboo, India’s toy start-ups, and more

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New Delhi | Updated: December 13, 2020 12:21:16 pm

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc BlogsWays to wonderland: The best toys are those that make the child an active participant in play (Illustration: Suvajit Dey)

A peek into the world of India’s toy start-ups

Outside the forest, a board welcomes visitors into its canopied universe. A single slender loris peeks from a branch. As the park gates open, the four jeeps make their way into the protected forest area from different zones. The roads are sinuous and every turn brings surprises. Sometimes, it’s a bird call that alerts the visitors to the presence of wildlife ahead. Sometimes, a half-glimpsed watering hole holds that promise. Like all forests, this one, too, demands courtesy. If you speak loudly instead of letting the silence of the forest draw you in, there are penalties. But for those who play by the rule, the forest gives you bragging rights afterwards, rewarding you with sights that you’d always dreamed of. A roll of the dice and you could catch sight of a lion hunting his prey; another roll and it could even be the elusive cheetah with its cubs.


‘Stepping into politics was an extension of my activism’: Nithya Raman

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs Nithya Raman

Last month, Nithya Raman made the unthinkable possible. She became the first city council member to unseat an incumbent in Los Angeles. But before her historic win, Raman, 39, trained in urban planning and governance and has been a community leader both in India and the US.

Born in Thrissur, Raman left for the US with her family at the age of six. Later, she would live in Chennai (her husband’s family hails from Madurai and Tenkasi) and start the Transparent Chennai initiative. It empowers slum dwellers — by using maps and data — to access basic services like clean toilets and drinking water, and to find a voice in local governance.


‘Astad was a genius who could never sit still’: Dadi Pudumjee

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs When on stage, Astad could create certain emotional states and take the audience with him.

I first met Astad Deboo in 1981 when I was at the Shri Ram Centre for Art and Culture in Delhi, running the Sutradhar Puppet Theatre. He had come with a group of friends who were supporting him in doing up his sets and lighting. After that, we met off and on, when he performed in Delhi or I in Mumbai, where he was based.

Astad was a genius who could never sit still. He travelled all over the world and had a huge group of friends and people whom he knew from the world of arts and cultural institutions. When he toured, everything was planned ahead and minutely. Unlike many dancers, who are confined to their form, Astad had many different interests across the arts, from music to films. In the early days, we used to speak a lot about music and I noticed that he used a lot of (American composer) Philip Glass music. Recently, he had moved on to having a lot of his music composed by artiste Yukio Tsuji, a Japanese composer and performer.


How the Rashtrapti Bhavan’s kitchen makes a global impact by celebrating regional Indian food

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs Cook to connect: The journey of the Rashtrapati Bhavan kitchen, which started with Mughlai and tandoori preparations, has now arrived at a stage where regional cuisine is proving to be an effective mode of food diplomacy, even as we celebrate our ancient heritage on the dining table.

The delicate local flavours, vast pan-Indian culinary repertoire and distinctively conceptualised service patterns of the Rashtrapati Bhavan kitchen have an extremely rich and interesting history. The journey dates back to 1931 when the Viceroy House was the epicentre of British colonial power and the palace-cum-home of Lord Irwin. It was run on the same lines as Buckingham Palace, where household and hospitality operations were managed by a colossal team of about 500 employees, comprising cooks, bakers, patissiers, khansamas (traditional cooks), butlers, utility workers, florists, sanitation workers, laundry and so on. The building had full-fledged culinary operations with kitchen, confectionery, larder and scullery sections.


How moreish crabs can teach table manners

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs Get off my back: Speckled swimming crabs

Where did it go, Bambi? Where did it go, girl?” Poised on the beach, our bamboozled Boxer would stare at the sand, her brow furrowed in a worried frown. The ghost (or sand) crab that had caught her eye would skedaddle sideways and Bambi would pounce, but then, poof! it was gone again. This time with a disdainful wriggle as it lowered itself beneath the sand: now Bambi would dig frantically, but to no avail. The crab was gone!

I loved watching her try and catch crabs on the beach — and I admired these nondescript-looking crabs, exactly the shade of the sand, for their sheer disdain and their marvellously delicate table manners. Very fastidiously, they would pick up a tidbit from the sand with their pincers and put it in their mouths — like any well-bred socialite dining with the hoity-toity.


Sofia Coppola’s ‘On the Rocks’ is a bittersweet comedy about fathers, daughters and failing marriages

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs Men will be boys : Rashida Jones and Bill Murray

Is there a couple, anywhere on the planet, which doesn’t experience a sense of drift some years into cohabiting? Being joint at the hip is automatic in the initial rosy period, with partners bereft when apart even for a few hours. But things change. Before you know it, you’ve clocked a few anniversaries, added a member to the family and the little person is sucking up all your energy, not to mention your waking hours, and hey, ho, romance is out of the window.
Sofia Coppola doesn’t waste any time building preambles in her latest, On The Rocks, streaming on Apple TV. Could Laura’s husband Dean be involved with another woman? He’s a textbook case of “men with other things on their mind”: suddenly turning ultra-busy at the office, being too touchy-feely with a stunning colleague, keeping phone chats private, and, that most suspicious thing of all, work trips where said colleague comes along. Could the marriage, not to put too fine a point on it, be on the rocks?


How you can help local artists and businesses this Christmas

, SEO, Wordpress Support & Insurance, Mortgage, Loans, Legal, Etc Blogs Be vocal for local: Instead of giving in to mindless consumption during the gifting season, we can spread joy by supporting small, struggling businesses. (Courtesy: Aamir Rabbani)

Having spent almost a quarter of a century in the US, I have always been loath to join in the horrid, all-consuming vulgarity that is gifting at Christmas.

Cut-throat capitalism and mindless consumerism are the inertia that leads otherwise sane and mindful people to start living and breathing the madness that is holiday shopping.

So, it seems oddly wonderful to me that this year I find myself thinking of the tradition of Secret Santa, not with my usual disdain, but as a worthwhile indulgence, times two. Worthwhile not only for the act of giving itself, but also for those whose businesses we can support.
We don’t need to go too far beyond our doorsteps to know who needs the good graces of a Secret Santa. Touching each of our lives are women and men who are doing all they can to keep together life as they knew it in March. Many are being torn apart in ways we can never understand, and facing ugly realities that have even uglier repercussions. Joblessness, hunger, homelessness, suicide, depression are rife. These challenging times pose questions with no easy answers.

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