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An Insider’s Guide to the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival 2019

kala ghoda arts festival
 

AN INSIDER'S GUIDE TO THE KALA GHODA ARTS FESTIVAL

WORDS BY BHAVIKA THAKKAR

If the Kala Ghoda Arts Festival were a person, it would turn 20 today. That’s as old as a University student — a person old enough to vote and drive. I say this to drive home the measure of time that has passed, making KGAF India’s oldest festival. From a handful of venues in 1999 to over 30 venues today. From 20 programs in 1999 to over 500 programs across 15 sections in 2019. From an eclectic festival to a festival for the people, by the people, KGAF has come a long way. And in its 20th edition, it’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Editor’s Note: The festival runs from February 2 to 10, 2019. Kindly check the festival website to confirm event times, which are subject to change.

Literature

KGAF Guide_002

Venue: David Sassoon Library Gardens

The Bombay Plan, Sunday Feb 3, 6:45 pm to 7:55 pm

The Bombay Plan was the name given to a set of proposals made in 1944 by leading industrialists of the time — including Jamshedji Tata, Ghanshyam Birla, and Ardeshir Shroff — that detailed the post-Independence economic development for the country. Lord Meghnad Desai, Sanjaya Baru and R. Gopalakrishnan will speak on this unique plan for development in India.

Gandhi Between the Wars, Tuesday Feb 5, 5:10 pm to 6:10 pm

As KGAF commemorates 20 years, we also pay tribute to the Mahatma on the occasion of his 150th birth anniversary, with Srinath Raghavan expounding on the American interest in Gandhi between WWI and WWII.

And Justice for More – Section 377, Saturday Feb 9, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm

Justice Chandrachud, known for his momentous and eloquently written judgement on Section 377, discusses the implications of Section 377 and the power of the Indian Constitution in safeguarding society.

Children’s Events

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Venue: CSMVS Lawns

Ooey Gooey by Nutty Scientist, Sunday Feb 10, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm

If your kid is nuts about slime, bring them to this hands-on workshop where they can get down and dirty making slime, conduct fantastic experiments, and maybe even make some toothpaste while they’re at it! If you as a parent are cringing, remember: Daag Achhe Hain.

Know Your Art presents SH Raza, Sunday Feb 10, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Since you’ve already managed to drag the kids out, it’s a great opportunity for them to learn about one of India’s foremost artists SH Raza, using concepts of math, geometry, shape, and colour to create their own unique masterpiece.

Cinema

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Venue: Various (see below)

Hamid, Saturday 2 Feb, 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm, Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS

Catch the public premiere of Hamid, the heart-wrenching story of a Kashmiri boy who tries to call Allah on the number 786 after his mother tells him that his father is now with God. The screening will be followed by an interaction with the cast and crew of the film.

Zoo, Sunday 3 Feb, 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Coomaraswamy Hall, CSMVS

Shot entirely on an iPhone 6, Zoo is a dark, edgy film that is a must-watch for every film buff. And if you’re an aspiring filmmaker, you should stick around for director Shlok Sharma’s talk on mobile filmmaking.

Actor in Law, Sunday 3 Feb, 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, Visitor Centre, CSMVS

Actor in Law, made in Pakistan, is veteran actor Om Puri’s last film before his death. After the screening, his wife, Nandita Puri, will look back on the stalwart’s decades-long career.

Food

burma burma vegetarian restaurant fort

Venue: The food section at KGAF this year has moved from stalls vending food to restaurants dishing out a special KGAF menu. From Woodside Inn to Burma Burma, 31 restaurants will partner with the festival to ensure no one goes hungry!

Irani Chai!, Saturday, Feb 9, 9:30 am onwards

If you want to whet your appetite before you gorge, register for Irani Chai! a culinary walk curated by Roxanne Bamboat that will take you on a deep-dive into the Irani cafés in the area. Want more? The walk will end at Coomaraswamy Hall where you can catch the screening of The Last Irani Chai, a filmy ode to Mumbai’s iconic cafes.

Heritage Walks

Churchgate Guide

KGAF has become a pilgrimage of sorts over the years with people from across the country making their way to its hallowed grounds and taking from this the heritage walks this year will all culminate on the main festival street!

Get your walking shoes and get set to explore Mumbai like never before. From Dockyard Road to Dalal Street and Hutatma Chowk to Oval Maidan, the stories on each corner of this city are waiting to be discovered.

Music

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Venue: Various (see below)

Sounds of Vrindavan, Monday Feb 4, 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm, Cross Maidan

Pt. Hariprasad Chaurasia will banish all Monday blues as he performs with the students of his Gurukul.

Apache Indian, Saturday Feb 9, 7:55 pm to 8:35 pm, Asiatic Steps / Shaan, Sunday Feb 10, 8:15 pm to 9:45 pm, Asiatic Steps

If you’re a ’90s kid from India, these two names are sure to evoke nostalgia and memories of the Golden Age of pop in India. We all danced to Love-o-logy and Chok There, and it’s time to dust off your dancing shoes from two decades ago and relive the glory of Indian pop music.

Workshops

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Venue: Various (see below)

One of KGAF’s most underrated but most engaging section, the workshops are always somewhere you should visit to complete your festival pilgrimage.

Monday Feb 4, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm, Somaiya Centre

If you’re stressed and need a breather go learn the original art of t’ai chi.

Wednesday 6 Feb, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, Artists’ Centre

Looking to be the next TEDx speaker? Get some tips from Siji Varghese as he shares insights on how you can be the next one up there.

Thursday Feb 7, 2:30 pm to 4:30 pm, Artists’ Centre

Get a slice of the drone pie as Gaurav Singh teaches you how to make your own drone. Then you can plan how to build your own drone army and take over the world.

Sunday, Feb 10, 11:30 am to 1:30 pm, Artists’ Centre

If you’re looking to expand your sensory capabilities, learn to create your own piece of art while being blindfolded and, in the process, how to value the use of all your senses.

Feature photograph courtesy the Kala Ghoda Association

 
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Go Bananas At Ally Pally

alexandra palace
 

GO BANANAS AT ALLY PALLY

Perched on a hill between Muswell Hill and Wood Green in North London is the imposing Alexandra Palace, affectionately known as Ally Pally. It was built in in the late 1860s-early 1870s by the Lucas Brothers, who also built the famous and beautiful Royal Albert Hall in London at around the same time. The Great Hall and West Hall are today typically used for exhibitions, music concerts, and conferences. There are also activities such as skateboarding and boating for visitors.

Alexandra Palace, Alexandra Palace Way, London N22 7AY

READ MAHRUKH MCDONALD'S STORY

It was a hot day as we walked up the hill, stopping off on the sloping lawns to take in the view of the London skyline. Families had taken advantage of the beautiful sunny Sunday with picnics spread out on mats and kids running around playing.

Alexandra Palace was never a palace in the true sense of the word but a massive recreational centre designed solely for the enjoyment of the people – opera, musicals, plays, and all kinds of entertainment. It opened in 1873 but just 16 days later was gutted by a tremendous fire. However, it was quickly rebuilt and re-opened two years later.

In Victorian times, audiences were thrilled by actors seeming to appear and disappear into thin air and leap to incredible heights made possible by the under-stage machinery and traps. The theatre remains frozen in time, hidden away for more than 80 years, with much of the original décor and stage machinery still in place. Since 2016, a lot of work has been underway to bring the theatre back to life while retaining its original character. Excitingly, it is now open to visitors and not to be missed!

It’s a little forlorn through years of neglect, but Alexandra Palace is still an impressive building with an incredible alternative history. In the First World War, it was used as a refugee camp then an internment camp. Then, in 1936, the BBC leased the east wing to use as a production and transmission centre. It remained in residence for 50 years, but as other studios developed in and around London, the Ally Pally studios became outdated and eventually closed in the 1982, especially after the second massive fire in 1980 left a large portion of the building derelict. This wing also housed a Victorian theatre and, amazingly, both the studios and the theatre survived the fire. Today, it is the only surviving early TV studio in the world and is still used to exhibit historical television equipment.

alexandra palace

There are numerous events and shows taking place daily at Ally Pally, as well as activities like the indoor ice rink, outdoor skateboard park, boating lake, and the ‘Go Ape’ adventure park. At £36 per adult (£28 for children under 16), Go Ape isn’t cheap, but everyone inside seemed to be having so much fun that we bought tickets. We were in for challenging, blood-pumping action tackling high rope obstacles including Tarzan swings, a fun 79m-long zip line, and a 46ft sheer drop called the Plummet.

Kids are catered for in a separate Tree Top Junior specially designed for mini Tarzans aged between 6 and 10 years. They’re safely harnessed and taken around a practice run to ensure safety and comfort first. It is high, but the children loved it and staff were on hand to provide encouragement and support for not-quite-so brave.

There is also a 10-hole Pitch and Putt course open in the warm months and a picturesque lake where you can hire boats or ride in brightly coloured flamingo pedaloes. The indoor skating rink is open year-round, as is the Phoenix pub for drinks and food.

Our visit coincided with a Sunday morning Farmers’ Market at the bottom of Muswell Hill, and we walked through it, breathing in the aromas of fresh bread and home-made cakes and pastries. We ate at a French-Caribbean stall – a delicious Bokit’la, a pitta-style pocket bread stuffed with aubergine or salt fish, lettuce, avocado – so if you don’t want to eat at one of Ally Pally’s dining options you can always make a day out of it and grab a bite from one of the market’s offerings. With history, entertainment, and views, Ally Pally really has it all.

Feature photograph by John Bointon [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo 2 by neiljs [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

 
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Live A Little At The Quarter

 

the quarter royal opera house mumbai

LIVE A LITTLE AT THE QUARTER

The Quarter at Royal Opera House is divided into four distinct sections – an al fresco restaurant, an elegant bar, an all-day café, and a live performance space. The menu is mostly Italian and Mediterranean, and the bar serves a host of signature cocktails made with fresh ingredients. Carefully curated nightly gigs include rock bands, jazz legends, and live acts from across the world.

The Quarter, Mathew Road, Royal Opera House, Girgaon, Mumbai 400 004. Phone: 083291 10638

READ KRUTI DALAL'S STORY

On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair

I walk briskly past shuttered shops, away from the railway tracks. The road is deserted, dotted only by strays and the occasional scooter. But up ahead in the distance, I see the shimmering vestiges of an era gone by. I turn left and step through the gates of the splendid Royal Opera House.

There were voices down the corridor

Classic chandeliers beckon through the glass, enticing aromas tantalise my nostrils, but I’m already swaying in anticipation of the music. As I wait behind a renowned plastic surgeon and his patient wife to get my pulse point branded for the night, I hear soft strains, melodic murmurs, and then the opening riff of “Mustang Sally” roaring down the corridor. I’m in for a ride.

Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)

I waltz back into the 1950s. Plum-coloured velvet chairs, plush couches, square table tops, chic candle holders, mirrored walls – all that’s missing is Duke Ellington on a vintage piano. But all that jazz doesn’t matter tonight. All eyes are fixed on the elderly gentleman on stage as he speaks tentatively into the mic. It’s working, we say. Then I’ll begin, he says.

Some dance to remember, some dance to forget

The next few hours are a blur of blow-dried hair, pearl necklaces, and floral blouses. A Bejan Daruwalla lookalike in a Hawaiian shirt twirls his wife in the narrow space between tables. A saree-clad, silver-haired lady jives with her grandson up front. The trio of chorus singers moves in unison, swaying their hips in time with the maracas and tambourine. I feel like I’ve tripped into a gymkhana soiree on steroids.

Mirrors on the ceiling, pink champagne on ice  

The high doesn’t wear off as the night veers on, the impact of the music and ambience compounded by the potent tipples. My chilled Gateway draught gives way to a herbaceous Quarter G&T before I draw the drinking curtains with a punchy Negroni Frappe. I haven’t even looked at the extensive wine list. I know I have to come back.

You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave

The lead singer belts out Folsom Blues in a faux baritone. Almost-Mr. Daruwalla mops his head and takes a sip of his whiskey. The ladies take a breather before the next dance number. It’s late, and I have a long way to go. I move towards the back of the room to return my glass, but I’m intercepted by an acquaintance who stares at me in disbelief. “It’s only a quarter past 11,” he says. “You can’t leave.”

I only protest once. Then I accept my Old Fashioned and retreat to the shadows to watch Almost-Mr. Daruwalla strut his stuff, patting myself on the back for this risky Friday night move.

What a nice surprise.

Feature photograph courtesy The Quarter

 

 
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In Conversation with Hena Kapadia of TARQ

tarq gallery colaba
 

IN CONVERSATION WITH HENA KAPADIA OF TARQ

Built by architects Gregson, Batley & King in 1938, Dhanraj Mahal in Colaba is an art deco marvel. After you are sufficiently enchanted by its phenomenal architecture, tranquil courtyard, and charming bougainvilleas, you should find your way inside to TARQ, a contemporary art gallery launched by Hena Kapadia in 2014. Over the last four years, TARQ has not only focused on showcasing works by young, emerging artists but has also made itself a highly interactive space by hosting events, workshops, and talks. We spoke to Hena about her experiences at TARQ.

TARQ, F35/36 Dhanraj Mahal, C.S.M. Marg, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai 400 001. Tel: 022 6615 0424

WORDS BY PAYAL KHANDELWAL

The City Story: In terms of the location of the gallery, was Colaba your first choice?

Hena Kapadia: When we opened in 2014, a lot of galleries were already in Colaba. I did investigate the possibility of opening in Lower Parel or Bandra, but commercially it was more affordable to open a gallery in Colaba, especially for the type of property we have. Also, logistically it becomes easier to do a lot of things in Colaba, because there are a lot of galleries in the neighbourhood. So we can be a part of things like ‘Art Night Thursday’, for example.

Getting the space in Dhanraj Mahal was by chance, as I was entirely at the mercy of my realtor. But I did love the building, and everything that came with the space – including my one parking spot.

TCS: TARQ is spread over two floors – is there a particular show where you were able to use the aspect interestingly?

HK: Yes, there was a show earlier this year where the space worked really well. This was ‘Wasteland’ curated by Birgid Uccia, in collaboration with the Swiss Consulate. The curator wanted to explore the gallery space spread over two floors, so we had an installation that combined both the floors.

To be honest, when I chose the place, I was a bit worried because of it being on two floors. We are used to galleries that are single floor, wider, industrial spaces. But somehow, it has worked quite well for the shows we do.

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TCS: What were some of the challenges when you were starting out?

HK: Initially, logistical stuff like packing and shipping were a major headache, but we have figured this out over the years. Another thing we have hammered out is our catalogues. We always wanted to do catalogues for each exhibition, especially because we work with young artists and feel that we need to develop that writing for them. So what we do is commission these catalogues. Initially, with the catalogues, each artist wanted a different kind of catalogue which was very difficult, but now every year we do a series, and each catalogue fits into that.

TCS: It’s interesting that you are developing an identity for the gallery instead of for each artist, so at the end of the year, you have this cohesive set of catalogues. Was this a conscious decision?

HK: This was a conscious decision because every time we had to design this, I would pull my hair out. It wasn't about gallery identity versus artist identity. We privilege our artists in many ways. Having a unique design for each catalogue was just impossible logistically, especially because these are small-scale publications. Now it has become a much more streamlined process. However, we make sure that artist is comfortable with what we are doing, with who's writing the essay, how the catalogue is designed, which images are included, etc. It is still very much a dialogue, just better formatted.

tarq gallery colaba

TCS: You have been doing a lot of interactive events like workshops, talks, etc. Was that always integrated into the gallery program?

HK: Yes. I wanted new people to come into the place and was looking for ways to engage them. One of the earliest events we did was a poetry club called ‘Canvas Kavita’. We would send images of the current show to amateur poets so they could respond to it in verse. The whole impetus behind doing the programming can be find in the name of the gallery – TARQ, which means dialogue or discussion. I always wanted it to be a space where conversations can happen, and I think we have managed to do that.

TCS: What’s the most fun and the most tedious part about running a gallery?

HK: I love working with my artists. I enjoy the fact that I am constantly in conversation with them, the back and forth that goes on. I enjoy that closeness. I also like the fact that I get to talk to strangers who visit the gallery.

I don’t dislike anything about being a gallerist. I just really, really love my job.

TCS: A lot of people in the industry say that you are quite a workaholic. How true is that?

HK: Yes, it is true (laughs). Though I have now been consciously trying not to go crazy. Last year, we did seven shows, but the year before that we had done 10 shows. That’s when I killed myself a little bit. We are now in groove with the space and the artists, so it’s very comfortable. But I feel that anyone in this business has to be a bit of a workaholic, at least for the first five years, because there is a lot to figure out.

tarq gallery colaba

TCS: What’s been your most challenging show – conceptually or logistically?

HK: We did a show in 2016 called ‘In Letter and Spirit’ which had works from three artists – from India, Pakistan and the USA. Just getting everything together was a bit of challenge for that show, but we have now figured this out. We are doing solo shows with those artists. Conceptually, there has been no difficult show so far. I also feel that when a show is tough, intellectually or logistically, it’s a challenge to learn and grow from.

TCS: Apart from your regular programming, do you have anything particular planned for 2019?

HK: We are participating in two art festivals – Art Basel in Hong Kong and India Art Fair. Since 2017, we have been holding workshops for our artists to celebrate our anniversary. It’s like a weekend or a three-day get-together in the gallery. We are trying to make this meaningful for everyone. So last year, we did a writing workshop with Skye Arundhati Thomas where the artists got to workshop their Artist Statements, which has been a bit of a struggle for us as we are constantly editing the statements. Also, most artists are reluctant to write these. I understand that, and that’s exactly why we needed to have this conversation. It became a very productive dialogue. The artists also got to interact amongst themselves, which led to exchange of ideas and stuff.

Photographs courtesy TARQ

 
Samantha-Warren-band

Makers of London: Samantha Warren

 

MAKERS OF LONDON: SAMANTHA WARREN

Professional textile designer Samantha Warren launched her eponymous brand of stylish accessories and gifts in 2013. Heavily influenced by her love of nature and travel, her products combine vibrant aesthetics with practical functionality.

WORDS BY ADITI DHARMADHIKARI

The City Story: Tell us a little bit about how the concept of your accessories and gifts line came about.

Samantha Warren: I've always been quite entrepreneurial and had experimented with a couple of business ideas before setting up my own brand. After years of designing for high street fashion brands, I saw an opportunity to combine my commercial experience with an experimental approach to print design to create statement and wearable accessories. Central to this approach is a constant push to be playful while still producing wearable and elegant objects.

TCS: How does your love of nature and travel influence your work?

SW: Nature relaxes me, and I feel so inspired when I’m in these environments.

I've always had a love for landscapes and open spaces, maybe due to the fact that I grew up in south London. My love of travel is perhaps an extension of this love of nature, and the desire to see new and inspiring places and people. One of my most popular collections was inspired by Iceland, where I was completely blown away by the beauty and scale of the landscape. The theme of nature has naturally continued as I've designed new collections and played with new techniques and products. The energy, smells, and my emotions in these surroundings all help to inspire my work and I love honing in on interesting colour palettes, unexpected pops of colour, textures, and organic shapes.

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TCS: What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced along the way?

SW: Prior to launching my own brand, I worked primarily as a print designer. Moving from this specialised role into taking on the design, prototyping, development, and distribution of my own products was, and still is, a huge learning curve. Besides that there is the day-to-day balancing act of design, marketing, sales and dealing with an increasingly challenging retail environment. Being a small company means that it can be difficult to balance all these functions, but it also means I can adapt quickly to changing markets and design and develop new products with agility.

TCS: How does London inspire your work?

SW: I've lived in London my whole life, so I think that the city has shaped much of who I am as a person and a designer. London is such an inspiring, energetic and eclectic place, which comes through in my use of colour and print techniques. It also informs a more practical side of my work. Urban living requires stylish but also functional products, which is a nice synergy of requirements to work with.

Samantha Warren_003

TCS: Are there any interesting clients you've met through the sale of your products?

SW: All of my clients are interesting, really. I love hearing what they think of my work, especially those in the art and design fields who really respect my unique style. There is nothing more exciting than seeing a happy customer wear my products with pride and joy.

TCS: What are your short-term and long-term goals, going forward?

SW: I like to think big. My overarching ambition is to make Samantha Warren a household name. This really defines much of my short- and long-term goals. I am hopeful that continuing to fuse my experimental approach to print techniques with beautifully practical accessories will be the secret to my success.

We discovered Samantha Warren through Shopping With Soul.

 
Seefah-band

Savour Sublime Asian Flavours at Seefah

 

SAVOUR SUBLIME ASIAN FLAVOURS AT SEEFAH

For erstwhile fans of The Blue who began to notice that something was missing from the food (and from the folk in the kitchen area) and were beginning to mildly panic, 2019 brings excellent news. After the successful launch of Soi69, Chefs Karan and Seefah’s little jewel in Breach Candy, the couple have, without any fanfare, opened a new eponymous space on Hill Road. It’s called Seefah and it is wonderful!

Seefah, 3rd Floor, Khan House, Next Time Square, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 089288 95952/089288 88710

READ GENESIA ALVES'S STORY

Important things first.

The menu at Seefah features almost* every single one of your absolute favourite things at The Blue. As a recap, the focus is very much on Thai and Japanese cuisine with crowd pleasers and palate teasers.

The papaya salad, fried chicken, sushi, and sashimi (the tobikko – the roe’s tiny, briny, orange orbs with their firm pop) are all still sublime. That seasonal mango salad, with or without the crisp squid, has taken permanent residence on the menu. That green Thai curry is as aromatic and complex, and the steamed fish in its piquant, citrusy, sinus-blasting glory is even more perfect that before.

And now comes the better news.

The restaurant, on the third floor above the McDonald’s (and the inexplicably popular Kaitlyn’s Beer Garden) is large and can accommodate 50 covers as opposed to The Blue’s mere, table-hustling 20.

Seefah_004

There is a little terrace that the place overlooks suffusing the interiors with light at lunch time and with a rare (for Bombay) sense of space at dinner. The interiors are beautiful and unpretentious; blue walls with a few cherry blossom sprigs painted here and there, furniture and décor in cane, wood and velvet, tables for four set up around the large dining room, and an island of high-bar chairs and an elevated table in the centre for larger groups or many individuals.

Chef Seefah says the kitchen is much, much bigger than the one at The Blue, and it features gas cooking rather than induction, which she says will only improve the deep flavours of what they serve. (I personally cannot imagine how it could be better, but I take her word for it.)

Those familiar with The Blue will also be delighted by the familiar faces at Seefah, because almost all her staff came to work with her at the new venture.

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Children are allowed in the evenings as well, because the chef says she would like to watch her customers enjoy their food with their entire families.

In the few days since she opened, Chef Seefah herself has been walking to say hello from table to table and smiling at those who are thrilled to have finally found her again after she ‘disappeared’. “I wanted to do it quietly and properly,” she says, “and make sure everything was perfect before we started telling people.” Her generosity and sweetness seem to suffuse the space with a warmth that is as authentic and addictive as her flavours.

And people are talking.

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Just via word of mouth, all the tables are full on a Friday night, four days since they opened their doors. This is fine for fans of Seefah. We know good things come to those who wait.

*Seefah the restaurant has replaced the pork dishes with other meats in acquiescence to the landlord’s religious dietary rules.

(It’s a New Bandra thing.)

Photographs courtesy Seefah

 
Nara-band

A Traveller’s Guide to Enchanting Nara

 

A TRAVELLER'S GUIDE TO ENCHANTING NARA

WORDS BY RAMYA RAMAMURTHY

Nara is perfect for a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto, but the city can imprint on you making you want to linger for a few days. Perhaps it’s the dichotomy of the small town nestled in an ancient city or just the marvel of watching how evolved or civilised the Japanese are to coexist so harmoniously with the animals in Nara. As one of the capitals of Japan in the Edo period from 710 to 794 AD, Nara boasts of some of the most iconic Japanese Buddhist temples along with a few magical surprises. It’s an underrated destination that definitely merits a visit.

Tōdaiji Temple

The foremost among the temples of Nara is the Tōdaiji Temple. Build in the Edo era, this temple’s Daibutsuden (Great Buddha Hall) houses the world's largest bronze statue of Vairocana Buddha – as the temple sign says, “The Buddha that shines throughout the world like the sun”. At nearly 50ft high, this 500-tonne bronze UNESCO World Heritage statue is so imposing and breath-taking that even the non-spiritually inclined are guaranteed to get goose-bumps just from gazing at it. The temple was built in 751 to protect Japan from the earthquakes and smallpox at the behest of the then Emperor Shōmu. The current temple was rebuilt in 1692 after a series of fires destroyed two previous temples. Don’t forget to climb up to the Nigatsu-do structure in this complex. If you time it for sunset, you can catch brilliant Nara city views, rendered in hues of red, orange, and yellow.

Nara-koen Deer Park

In the Shinto religion, deer are sacred and considered to be the messengers of gods, so your best bet to catch a glimpse of these elegant creatures is at the Nara-koen deer park near Tōdaiji. The park, lined with paths and dotted with serene pools, boasts of nearly 1,200 deer that are generally happy to mind their own business. If you want to feed them, you can buy a pack of deer crackers (shika sembei), but they get pretty aggressive once the packet is over and you stop feeding, so don’t engage them unless you have an exit plan! Otherwise, they are remarkably well behaved for semi-wild animals, and the legend goes they bow to you if you bow to them!  For ultimate in kawaii (Japanese for ‘irresistibly cute’), there is a presentation every year in July where the young fawns birthed that year can be seen in the pregnant deer enclosure.

Kōfuku-ji & Hōryū-ji

Kōfuku-ji Buddhist temple_coward_lion

If you don’t mind some more temple hopping, visit the Kōfuku-ji Buddhist temple, one of the Seven Great Temples and eight Historic Monuments of ancient Nara. Originally built in 669, the temple was finally constructed in Nara in 710. Fires and civil wars ravished this temple as well, and the current iteration is more recent. Every one of its structures is considered a National Treasure, from the East Golden Hall to the five-storied Pagoda (the second tallest in Japan) and the various statues housed in the temple.
Or you could head to Hōryū-ji, which is a train ride away, and one of the oldest wooden buildings in Japan! This is also one of the Seven Great Temples in Nara, built originally in 607. It was burnt to the ground and rebuilt a few times – in 711, 1374, and 1603. These reconstructions have some Korean and Chinese influences in the architecture too, creating a unique style in this temple. You can get temple fatigue in Nara with so many options, but these three Kōfuku-ji, Hōryū-ji and Tōdaiji are worth a visit.

Mount Wakakusa

Mount Wakakusa makes for a perfect outdoor hike in Nara. This grass-covered mountain is located close to the deer park and Tōdaiji Temple, and you can climb it all year-round except in winter. The best time to go would be in the spring when cherry blossom trees in bloom line the entire slope of the mountain. It’s a 20-minute hike to a small clearing or plateau which offers excellent views of the city. More determined hikers can go on for another half hour to the summit, but most people just make it to this point for the city views. Every winter, the slopes of this mountain are burnt and accompanied by fireworks, making it quite a sight to witness. This was apparently done either as inter-temple rivalry or to drive away wild boars, but both are apocryphal legends.

Nara National Museum

If you would rather stay indoors, look up the Nara National Museum, part of the vast Nara Park and walking distance from Tōdaiji and the Higashimuki market. Set up in 1889, the museum is one of the few structures in Nara to retain its original building and has a vast collection of Buddhist statues, paintings, scrolls, and ceremonial objects. The temporary exhibitions also include treasures from the Tōdaiji temple from time to time. English explanations are available all through the museum, which is a rarity in museums in Japan, so definitely make it a point to visit this one.

Higashimuki market

For the shopaholics and souvenir-hunters, Higashimuki market which has everything from deer-shaped from cookies to chocolates. At the entrance is a statue on a fountain of the Buddhist monk Gyoki Bosatsu who preached when it was illegal to do so. Look out for the typical Nara snacks like sushi in persimmon leaves, bean buns, and mochi. You can find something for every budget, from 100 yen stores to jaw-dropping and expensive antique stores in which no item has a price tag (work up the courage to ask for the price and then decide if it is worth the splurge).

Kuppila

Go off the beaten path to the lovely vegan café called Kuppila, run by a Japanese chef who has lived in Finland. Kuppila opened in 2017 and is a tiny restaurant with only a bunch of counter seats, which fosters camaraderie between the chef-owner and the patrons. It’s cash only though, so ensure you are carrying sufficient yen. A simple meal of vegan tapas, vegan curry with rice, or even the rice bowl was easily the highlight of our trip! You can wash it down with sweet Plum wine that is a Nara speciality.

 
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42 Questions with Ranvir Shorey

 

42 QUESTIONS WITH RANVIR SHOREY

In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – how to make good coffee, the best websites for hypochondriacs, and the saddest song ever.

This week we talk to film and theatre actor and ‘ninja-worrier’ Ranvir Shorey, one of the industry’s finest (and most underrated actors). With a prolific career that includes a range of characters from pompous ’70s alpha-male to volatile car-jacker to a tender portrayal of a man stuck in time, he also reveals that he dabbles in the art of the risqué ditty.

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

1. How are you? 

Sorry I’m a bit late.

2. What was one thing you learned from selling typewriter daisy wheels on your first job? 

You can, if you try.

3. What’s the oddest job you’ve ever had? 

My current one. It's a life full of unpredictable turns, ups and downs, and a helluva lot of waiting.

4. How many musical instruments can you play? 

About three and a half.

5. Which musical instrument do you want to master next?

I gave up the will to master anything a while ago. I just like to play now.

6. Have you uploaded any of those rude/funny songs you improvise online?

Yes, our masterpiece 'Nangi Manju' is on my YouTube for all to enjoy.

7. Where do you go to just hang out with your friends? 

Their place or mine. Or any place with good food and cheap booze is fine.

8. Whose face is on your punching bag right now? 

Most people who aren’t civil while driving in traffucked Mumbai.

9. What do you do to keep fit?

Swim & yoga is my staple. I throw in a bit of strength training when I can.

10. Free will or destiny?

Free will is overrated.

11. What’s the most cliché Punjabi thing about you? 

Cussing.

12. What physical aspect of you has your son inherited?

Long limbs.

13. Can he speak any Punjabi? 

No, but he speaks some Bengali. It’s his "mother tongue", so it’s as it should be.

14. What’s the last thing that made you cry?

Some silly baby animal video on the internet.

15. What’s the last thing that made you cry with laughter? 

Something Colbert recently did on the Late Show.

16. What’s the best online medical resource for a garden-variety hypochondriac?

WebMD

17. Which is your favourite cuisine?

Asian. Anything East of Mumbai, I love.

18. Which is the best place in Mumbai to eat your favourite food?

There are a few. All I’ll say is that they’re all Asian.

19. What’s been your greatest adventure in the kitchen?

Learning to double cook. It’s amazing what nuanced results one can get by mixing two processes of cooking.

20. What are you learning to cook right now? 

Trying to get double cooked pork right.

21. How do you like your coffee made? Moka-pot, French-press, or Starbucks?

Moka-pot is good. French press would do too.

22. Politics at the dining table – yes or no?

No! Please, no! That would remind me of my family at the dinner table.

23. What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever received from a fan? 

One guy made me talk to his wife and family on the phone. Awkward!

24. What’s the saddest song you’ve ever heard?

Jolene.

25. What’s the best sort of music to get a party going?

Funk, baby! Soul & Funk fur sure.

26. Where do you like to go out to party? 

I’ll go anywhere with good loud music once I git my boogie on.

27. What do you do to detox?

Apart from obviously laying off the toxins, a swim, yoga, and massage do it for me.

28. Which film set/location has been the biggest eye-opener for you? 

Every set/location is a learning experience.

29. Which is most fulfilling – theatre or film or web series? 

Film, done right.

30. Which is your favourite performance space in Mumbai? 

Prithvi Theatre.

31. Tell us a secret but don’t tell us whose it is… 

Welcome to a generation of Bollywood stars that start their careers with hair weaves.

32. If you were a superhero – which one would you be and why? 

The Shadow, because he battles the evil in his own heart.

33. If you were PM tomorrow, three decisions you’d take immediately.

  1. Stricter punitive measures for civil offences like littering, not following traffic rules etc.
  2. Make all industry take an immediate turn to green tech.
  3. Reclaim the Indian State from the wretched grasp of religions.

34. Are you single? 

It’s complicated.

35. What’s a great place for a lo-fi first date now that you’re a grown up?

The beach is always nice. Also, it’s sad there aren’t any drive-in cinemas left.

36. What has been the best present you ever gave anyone? 

Recommended a good yoga teacher to a friend. They still thank me for it.

37. Is there a restaurant you’ve been going to for more than 20 years? 

Janta, in Bandra, is one.

38. Favourite Hollywood director?

Clint Eastwood is one.

39. Favourite Bollywood director? 

Rajkumar Hirani is one.

40. How can people show Ranvir Shorey some love? 

By watching the films in large numbers, preferably in theatres.

41. What is one thing all men should know how to do?

Cook and clean.

42. What is one thing all women should know? 

All men are not assholes. All assholes are not men.

Photograph by Amit Asher (courtesy Ranvir Shorey)

 
Pondicherry-band

48 Hours in Pondicherry

 

48 HOURS IN PONDICHERRY

WORDS BY RASHMI GOPAL RAO

Pondicherry is a city like none other. A French colony until 1954, Pondicherry (also known as Puducherry and fondly called Pondy) is an ideal seaside destination and a perfect weekend getaway from Chennai or Bangalore. The old-world charm and colonial cityscape of the White town capture the attention of the first-time visitor, while the newer part of the city is a picture of hustle bustle with a heavy South Indian influence.

The soul of the city is arguably the French Quarter. With a perfect synergy of French and Indian influences and a host of unique experiences, Pondy is sure to leave you enchanted with every visit.

Day 1

10:00 a.m.: Take a spiritual sojourn at Sri Manakula Vinayagar Temple

Pondicherry_Manakula_Vinayagar_Temple

The Manakula Vinayagar Temple was established well before the 17th Century when the French settled in Pondicherry. The eclectic local market outside the temple premises has attractive stone and terracotta artefacts you can buy as souvenirs. Do not miss Lakshmi, the elephant at the entrance of the temple, and a chance to get your head tapped by her trunk, which is akin to a blessing!

11:00 a.m.: Pay your respects at Sri Aurobindo Ashram

Pondicherry_Aurobindo_Ashram,_Pondicherry

Established in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and a French lady famously known as "Mother", the Ashram has a focus on community living. The institution today has close to 2000 members and is currently managed by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, a public charitable trust. The grey, sombre building is a sanctuary of peace and tranquillity. An impeccably maintained space that is surrounded by greenery, the centre of the Ashram complex houses the "samadhi" of both these leaders.

12:00 p.m.: Visit the Pondicherry Museum

Located on St. Louis Street, the Pondicherry Museum is a treasure house of statues, artefacts, and other objects from the Chola period. The stone sculptures and bronze statues from the Pallava and Chola dynasties are of particular interest and a significant feature of the museum.

3:00 p.m.: Take a stroll around White Town

Pondicherry_White Town

Bougainvillaea-lined avenues; colonial-style buildings in white, yellow, and ochre; and cobbled, bicycle-friendly streets characterise the French quarter that is separated from the rest of the city by a canal. It is immaculately planned, with roads laid out in a perfect grid replete with blue boards with French road names painted in white. With a substantial French population, this part of the town is home to several bakeries and restaurants serving authentic French cuisine (think croque monsieur, baguette, crepes, and quiches). You also have traditional home-grown brands like Suguru where you can sample delectable local Tamil/South Indian cuisine.

6:00 p.m.: Experience the promenade seafront

Pondicherry_promenade seafront

Beach Road or Goubert Avenue is a popular haunt with locals as well as tourists. While the actual beach is separated by a wall of rocks (the waters are not accessible to the public), the road is a great place to walk along the sea. Beach Road is teeming with street food vendors and hawkers selling curios. Towards the end of the avenue is a lighthouse that is almost 30 metres tall, as well as the famous Gandhi statue flanked by eight intricately carved 17th Century pillars.

Day 2

10:00 a.m.: Visit Auroville and Matrimandir

Pondicherry_Matrimandir 2

Auroville, a township 10km away from Pondicherry, was founded by Mother in 1968 with a vision to achieve human unity. People from over 50 countries live here in peace and harmony irrespective of caste, creed, and colour. It is spread over 20 square kilometres amongst forested and semi-urban areas, and an ideal way to start your exploration is at the visitor centre where you can spend few hours learning about the ethos of this unique community whose name translates into "City of Dawn". The Matrimandir – "Temple of the Mother" – is the highlight of Auroville, designed like a golden sphere and surrounded by beautiful gardens.

Auroville offers plenty of food and shopping options. Ceramics and pottery are wonderful buys, and there are many cafés where you can sample wholesome, organic fare apart from a host of world cuisines.

3.00 p.m.: Unwind at Chunnambar Boat House and Paradise Beach

Pondicherry_paradise beach

The backwaters of the Chunnambar are a popular boating venue. There are several other activities you can indulge in as well, such as trekking, beach games, and yachting. The point where River Chunnambar meets the Bay of Bengal is an exquisite sight. At the mouth of the backwaters is Paradise Beach, which has pristine white sands and is an ideal place to sunbathe or laze around while watching the sunset.

7:00 p.m.: Retail therapy

Head back to the city for a stint in shopping and retail therapy at Jawaharlal Nehru Street, Mission Street, and MG Road. The Ashram shops have high-quality handmade goods like incense sticks, candles, and perfumes as well as exclusive handmade paper and craft materials. Kalki, Casablanca, and PonFab are stores where you can pick up fabrics, souvenirs, and collectables.

 
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Discover Stunning Contemporary Art at Halcyon Gallery

 

halcyon gallery new bond street city of westminster london

DISCOVER STUNNING CONTEMPORARY ART AT HALCYON GALLERY

Halcyon Gallery was founded in 1982 and showcases modern and contemporary art from artists worldwide. It has three locations in London – at 29 New Bond Street (an intimate space), 144-146 New Bond Street (a space covering three levels), and in Harrods.

Halcyon Gallery, 29 New Bond Street, London, W1S 2RL. Phone: 020 7499 450

READ DIVYA SEHGAL'S STORY

In a city like London that is replete with world famous galleries and museums, it’s not often that one ventures to smaller, more specialist ones. But, over the years, Halcyon Gallery in New Bond Street has carved a niche for itself. Like the Tate Modern, it specialises in modern and contemporary art from emerging and established artists. Unlike the Tate Modern, which was founded in 1897, Halcyon Gallery is only 37 years old.

Because of the way shops are situated in New Bond Street – like numbered houses – when you walk into the gallery, it almost feels like you’ve entered the living room of a mansion with large paintings that line the walls and sculptures that dot the floors. Smaller galleries and museums have a more personal feel. There are usually fewer people, as these spaces aren’t as “touristy”, and you get to discover the best contemporary artists. The first time I visited Halcyon Gallery was to see the works of renowned glass blower Dale Chihuly, and I thought it was an apt space for his glass art.

If you want a taste of the art scene beyond the hustle and bustle of the popular, large galleries, Halcyon at 29, New Bond Street is where you should be. Just like its name suggests, it evokes serenity and tranquillity, which indeed is vital to appreciate art.

Feature photograph courtesy Halcyon Gallery