Thursday 0 comments

Review: 'Hamsoham' At Mudra Dance Festival

Today is Thursday, just another random Thursday where I go about my day, doing nothing out of the ordinary, and waiting for the weekend. Last Thursday, however, was different...

One of the most striking similarity between Indian performing arts is the fact that they all heavily draw influences from nature- be it the Hindustani classical music ragas, or the mudras and stances of Bharatnatyam. Hence, it was but only natural for NCPA to choose 'pashu' as the theme for their sixth edition of Mudra Dance Festival as a way to appreciate the animal symbolisms in Indian mythology. 

Mudra Dance Festival's primary intent is to celebrate the Indian performing arts heritage by placing them in different contexts. This year the festival ran from 21st April to 24th April. And this was exactly what I got a chance to witness last Thursday.

The inaugural dance performance of Mudra Dance Festival '16 titled 'Hamsoham- the soul of Indian art & philosophy' by accomplished Kuchipudi dancer Bhavna Reddy was what can aptly be titled 'mesmerising'. 

The recital explored the Mahabharata-era story of the mythological Hamsa or the Golden Swan and the crucial role this bird played in bringing together Princess Damayanti and King Nala. We, the audience, were informed in the prologue that it was Lord Shiva who took the form of the Golden Swan to unite Nala and Damayanti!

The powerful yet elegant choreography, devised by Kuchipudi maestro Raja Radha Reddy, was a treat to the soul. And I am not exaggerating when I say that Bhavna Reddy's swan-like grace brought the Golden Swan to life for the duration of that recital; my eyes were fully glued to the stage, not blinking even once so as not to miss a nanosecond of her performance. 

I also got to witness a Mayurbhanj Chhau performance by Rakesh Saibabu portraying the life cycle of Garuda, the vahana or mount of Lord Vishnu. Least to say, it was spectacular and exposed me to a dance form I was completely unaware of. I also got a little insight into the history of Mayurbhanj Chhau, that, Mayurbhanj Chhau's martial style comes from the fact that it was performed to lift the spirits of soldiers! 

So now you know what set my last Thursday apart from the hordes of Thursdays this year.

P.S. I have not taken the pictures above. Due to photography restrictions inside NCPA, I couldn't. These are the official pictures of the event.
Sunday 1 comments

This Sunday: A Skywatching Saga

March was when college campuses across Mumbai were filled with nervous teenagers trying to cram in a last minute revision before their semester-end examinations. Well, I braved that March; mostly by clinging on to the hopes of a blissful summer vacation.

It has been almost one and a half month of the holidays now, and I have officially declared myself 'bored'. Mostly due to the facts that the weather is too darn dreadful to even warrant a foot outside the house, and that all I prayed for in March were mangoes and long journeys, both of which haven't materialized until now!

All I do to while away my days is scroll through a bottomless pit, that is, Instagram. It was on one such scrolling-away session that I paid attention to the abundance of 'skywatch' pictures I've put up, and the thought of collecting them in one post occurred to me (Oh, vacations, what do you do to me!). Thus, without further ado, 'skywatch'...

Skywatch #1

Skywatch #2

Skywatch #3

Skywatch #4

Summer skies are the best. Don't you think? Feel free to share thoughts in comments below.
Thursday 4 comments

Nashik Beyond Basics: 5 Offbeat Things To Do

(Please Note: I undertook this trip in Mid-November 2015. This article was written soon after, although it is being published now.)

Two weeks back, when I looked at the calendar, I couldn't be mad enough at myself. One whole month of holidays had slipped like sand through my hands, with merely a weekend left before having to plunge back into the whole ho-hum, and, I did not do that one single thing which I desperately needed to; travel! 

After being completely worn out by endless deadlines, stifling weather and maddening crowd, I was hoping to travel to the serene Himalayas. But as luck would have it, I was utterly broke, with barely a dime to spare for a rejuvenating trip to the mighty mountains.

Precisely then, the Universe decided to show some mercy on me and magically a friend messaged me with the same cry, hoping I would accompany her on a broke-women's camping trip to Bhandardara Lake that very weekend. Undoubtedly, I agreed. However, the day before the weekend trip (that is, Friday), there was a change of plans and we were heading to Nashik.

Nashik, for me, before the trip meant 'Kumbh Mela' and 'Sula Vineyards'; both of which contradicts the other! A quick Google search later, I began contemplating my option of dropping out of the plan, because, in my head, I kept chanting; "There is nothing to do in Nashik, except spending time at the Vineyard!". Looking back now, I cannot fathom how wrong I was, and I am sure that my list of To-dos in Nashik will prove exactly that.

1. Drive To Sinnar Windmill Farm

Windmills, for me, were equivalent to Vikings; I had read about them, but could never legitimize their existence. So, imagine my awe when I was informed that Nashik would finally give me the chance to see windmills from up close! You read it right, Nashik is surrounded by Windmill farms, the drive to which is amazingly scenic. Also, the view from the top of the hill makes coming to Nashik, even if merely for it, so worth it.

The view from the windmill farm

2. Camp On The Shores Of Gangapur Dam Backwaters

As I already harped; the original plan was basically a camping trip to Bhandardara Lake. Hence, we were in a delightful surprise when we discovered that we could camping beside a Lake, right there in Nashik! Gangapur Dam Backwaters is a brilliant location, surrounded by mighty peaks of Sahyadri Ranges in all the directions. Besides, given the fact that this is the very water-body responsible for Nashik's water supply, the lake is pretty clean.

Camping on the shore of Gangapur Dam Backwaters

3. Enjoy A Leisurely Evening At a Vineyard

Nashik happens to be the wine capital of India. There are several vineyards and wineries concentrated in this little town. The ones we visited were of all scales; the boutique winery Soma, the upcoming York, and the superstar Sula. Vineyards are best enjoyed in the evenings, as they go amazingly with splendid sunsets. Plus, it gives you an opportunity to enjoy that bottle of wine, sprawled in the vineyard's garden. Definitely a highlight of a Nashik trip.

The Grape Orchards at Soma Vine Village, a less crowded counterpart of Sula Vineyards

4. Explore The Serene Villages Near The Vineyards

There exist numerous settlement of farmers around the high-profile Vineyards; the rustic charm of which is easily overshadowed by the glamour of the wine district. Get off that car of yours and wander around these quaint little hamlets. I am sure a casual walk around the block will ignite that sense of connect with lush nature and peacefulness in you; something which it surely did in me.

Exploring nature, somewhere in the villages nearby the Vineyards

5. Get A Taste Of Authentic Nashik Misal Pav

On our drive to Sinnar Windmill Farm, the dreaded hunger pang engulfed us. Sighting of a quaint dhabba was, literally, God-sent. There was no menu, but we were informed that Misal Pav is available at this early hour of the day, and we went with it. Yes, Misal Pav is easily available in Mumbai too, but what sets Nashik's Misal Pav apart is the fact that they are served with fried papad and mango pickle! Quite unusual? Yes. Tasty? Absolutely.

Notice the fried papad and pickle? Yes, that's the Nashik touch

There are certain destinations which are completely overlooked when planning a trip; Nashik has to be one of those highly underrated destinations. And my escapade to this land clearly illustrates that the underdogs never disappoint. 

Have you been to Nashik? Feel free to drop in some suggestion in the comments below.
Sunday 0 comments

#QuakerBowl IndiMeet- My Tryst With Health

I would be kidding if I told that I eat healthy everyday. In fact, I would still be kidding if I claimed that I atleast try to eat healthy. The truth is that it is really, really, really hard. Mostly because I am a foodie and will eat anything one may put up on offer (provided it is vegetarian). Also, because I am more concerned with filling up my belly when I am on the go (that is, almost all the time).

What came in as a breath of fresh air was an invitation to #QuakerBowl IndiMeet. Why as a breath of fresh air, you ask? Mainly because the speaker of the day Celebrity Chef Mr. Vikas Khanna, Nutrition Ambassador of PepsiCo, drastically altered my perspective of healthy eating...forever!

The one and only: Chef Vikas Khanna

I always thought of oats as this boring and dreadful breakfast grain with no taste of its own. In fact, give the opportunity, the past me'd rather avoid anything made up of oats at all without even tasting. But the #QuakerBowl IndiMeet made me realize that the major USP of oats basically lies in that very fact! Although it is tasteless, it is super high in nutrients and, thus can be used in anything. Thereby, shooting up the nutrient content while maintaining the taste quotient and integrity of the dish.

The above mentioned fact was further lend its credibility when teams of bloggers went forth and tried their hands at cooking up a storm using oats as the star ingredient. It was at this cook-off the multi-purpose use of oats was revealed! Did you know, you can use powdered oats as a thickening agent in soups and stews? I didn't! Also, one can sneakily put in a bit of powdered oats in chapati dough to give it that edge (now I know why my mom's chapatis taste best!).

My Team's Dish: Tropical Bonanza

Overall, it was a fun-filled event with unexpected surprises at every step (Chef Vikas Khanna, I am looking at you). It shone some light onto how we all can eat healthy even without trying that hard or having do in any meal prep! Proof? The recipe below which I jostled up with the pack of Quaker Oats I was sent home with...

Banana & Strawberry Slushie:
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk (Try using chilled or cold milk)
  • 1 Ripe Banana (If possible, freeze bananas)
  • 3 tbsp Powdered Oats
  • 2-3 tsp Strawberry Crush (Bingo if you have fresh strawberries)
Whiz it all together in a blender and enjoy on a hot summer day.

Folks, I want you to understand that 'Health is Wealth'. Do not keep neglecting good nutritious food, when you are one of those who can actually afford to eat, unlike several others below poverty line. After all: Better Nutrition, Better World. 
Friday 0 comments

On My Playlist: Feist & The Last Shadow Puppets

If you have begun wondering about my whereabouts, I do not blame you. I have been missing for quite sometime now. The decline in frequency is not because of my falling interest in blogging (heck no, I love it!), but mostly because of the blog-o-sphere (aye, it is a legit word) becoming highly commercialized. Yes, when you are putting in efforts, you should be getting returns too; but these days, most of the bloggers write only sponsored posts. It is a major put-off!

In other news, my vacations have kicked in with full force. I have been listening to some great music and watching binge-watching television series (Game Of Thrones, finally!). And today I am writing with the intention to share two tunes which have been constantly stuck in my head...

Idle browsing through Instagram can be wondrous sometimes, and sometimes it can unwittingly introduce you to new music. My chancing upon this song is a direct evidence of 'em Instagram sessions. Honey Honey by Feist is one of those rare beautiful songs which introduce a sense of melancholy yet keep you mesmerized. A perfect 'night' song, in my opinion. 

I would be lying if I said I give all genres of music a chance. I am pretty stuck up in my choices. Hence, it takes me a random hear somewhere or other to find new artists. Discovering The Last Shadow Puppets is something that happened that way. All it took was a Vlog. Standing Next To Me is exactly what you need to lift up spirits. How do I know? Well, it does that for me. Plus, the whole Mod-meets-Minimalistic look makes the song's video quite an eye-candy!

So that'all for today. Please feel free to recommend music through the comments below.