A holiday at The Bungalow on the Beach in Tranquebar

When I arrived at The Bungalow on the Beach in the sleepy coastal town of Tranquebar — or Tharangambadi as it is locally known — around 11 am on that humid and muggy August day last year, I was in a bit of a funk.

My train to Karaikal (the nearest railway station) from Chennai had arrived nearly 4 hours late, which meant that I had missed breakfast (my most important meal of the day) and also a morning’s worth of exploring Tranquebar. Not only was I hungry, I also had the beginnings of a migraine which, I knew from past experience, had the potential to ruin my holiday.

My mood did not improve over the peaceful drive from Karaikal to Tranquebar or the first sight of the blue-green waters of the Bay of Bengal or the beautiful heritage Bungalow that was going to be my home. The warm welcome at the Bungalow did make me feel a little better, but by that time all I wanted to do was to do was to sleep off my migraine.

But when I was ushered into Princess Louise, which is what my room was called, all thoughts of sleep vanished. 🙂

Continue reading “A holiday at The Bungalow on the Beach in Tranquebar”

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“Mutable”: The changing nature of ceramic and clay art in India

I love experiences that challenge me, make me think and occasionally shake me up a bit — not too much, mind you, just a little. Be it a book, travel, a music performance, food… the memories that have stayed with me are the ones that offered something extra by way of perception. The exhibition on “Mutable: Ceramic and Clay Art in India since 1947“ at the Piramal Museum of Art in Mumbai was one such experience. Curated by Sindhura D.M. and Annapurna Garimella, Mutable showcases 70 years of ceramic and clay art objects sourced from artists, artisans, institutions and private collectors from across India.

I wasn’t aware of this exhibition till photos of its preview night on October 13, 2017, exploded on all my social media timelines. Friends who knew of my interest in all things art tagged me and I went dizzy just keeping up. In the days that followed, tantalising articles and write-ups in newspapers followed, tempting me to drop everything and visit the exhibition, but as it happened it took me 10 days before I could actually do so.

It was my first visit to the Piramal Museum of Art and when I walked in on that October afternoon, I didn’t know where to look first — the large open exhibition space or the exhibits. Exhibition spaces fascinate me in how they are designed to interact with the exhibits within and also how their very design enhances or limits viewer experience. In this case the large open gallery, a viewing gallery on the first floor, a domed roof and the exhibits promised a great experience.

And I wasn’t wrong. Continue reading ““Mutable”: The changing nature of ceramic and clay art in India”

The art of decluttering and joy of giving books

Most people have to deal with some kind of clutter in their homes — clothes, shoes, kitchen implements, artifacts, etc. I’m no different with my clutter arising from books. One might wonder why a book lover like me would call books clutter, but I would urge you to read on and see what I did after years of struggling to manage the vast book collection I have in my small apartment in Mumbai (and in my office space as well!).

I can’t remember when I started collecting books, but I do know that it began with a set of Amar Chitra Katha comics, which I still have ! My book collection grew slowly over the years, but really took off (or exploded as my oldest brother likes to say wryly), when I started working in 1993. For the first time I had unlimited money (or so it seemed at that time) to buy all the books I wanted. Of course, reality intruded but I was still happy that I had buying power.

And so the book collection expanded filling bookshelves, sharing space with my clothes, getting stuffed in the loft space, and even getting stored in the kitchen ! Also, since I didn’t have enough space at home I started keeping books in my office as well.

In an ideal world, a house or a workspace overflowing with books would have been considered charming, even romantic. I thought so too, till an overloaded bookshelf at home collapsed one day, missing my right foot by mere inches. Out of fear from other bookshelves meeting with the same fate, I decided that something had to be done. That something being discarding/giving away books that I didn’t need/like any more and lightening the shelves. For the first time, my book collection did not give me the usual feeling of joy or pride; instead, what I felt was claustrophobia.

That was the impetus for Project Declutter Bookshelves. This was in 2014.

Continue reading “The art of decluttering and joy of giving books”

My “now” song: Allahu Akbar

Do you ever have a song, an idea, a story line, or an image stuck in your head? And it just refuses to go away? For some time at least? I have this with music — it could be a song, an instrumental piece, a jingle, a background score, etc. That particular piece of music becomes my “now’” song, and the “nowness” (pardon my English here) could be for any length of time.

Music is my answer for everything. It is what I turn to in times of happiness or celebration or despair. Music is my refuge, my comfort food for the soul, my ‘blanket’, and often my support to tide over difficult times. My now song Allahu Akbar” sung by Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Ahmed Jehenzeb to music and lyrics by Shuja Haider has been all of this and then some more.

When I first heard Allahu Akbar, I liked it and left it at that. But then something made want to hear it again and then again and before I knew it I was listening to it every morning and then again before I went to bed. My mother too joined in on these listening sessions and we would listen to the song together before we went to bed.

Sometimes it would be the orchestra part that caught our attention and sometimes it was the chorus.

Sometimes it would be the lyrics that would work their magic and sometimes the music.
But what never failed to amaze us were the singers, especially Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan.

We have listened to this song so many times now that we not only know the music and the lyrics, but every pause, every interlude and every musical expression.

But most of all we are aware of the comfort that this song offered. Even now, as I type this out, just 26 minutes into the new year, Allahu Akbar is playing in the background. I have begun my New Year with this song, which is not just my ‘now’ song, but also my song of hope for the times to come.

Happy New Year, dear friend. Which song did you begin 2018 with? Is it also your ‘now’ song? Do share. 🙂


For more of my “now” songs and my other writings on music, do click here.

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