42 Questions with Jerry Pinto

jerry pinto

42 QUESTIONS WITH JERRY PINTO

In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like unlikely romantic trips and fading, melancholic divas.

This week we talk to Jerry Pinto, award winning poet, journalist, and author. He talks about #377, #metoo, Helen vs Leela, the Chinese takeaway guy in Em and the Big Hoom, and reminds us of that heady, heavy word "thalassa".

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

1. Are you a bad boy, Jerry Pinto?

I wish.

2. What is a Mahim boy trope?

His is the lament of the belly. Pao from Police Bakery. Chicken puffs from Crown. Plum cake from Bonita’s. Vadas from the cart outside Navjivan Society, Mori Road. All gone, all gone.

3. How many languages are you fluent in?

Zero. I claim English as the language of dream, Marathi as the language of pilgrimage, Konkani as the language of gilt and guilt, Hindi as the language of aspiration, and Urdu as the language in which it is possible to believe in words like panache, even if it is a word we borrowed from Latin where it meant a tuft of feathers.

And I am not saying this with false modesty. I was just reading Conversations with Borges (Seagull Books; Volume 1), and he was talking about how blanco-blanche (white) is the root word for black in English. How can one know any language? It fair drives me to despair when I consider how my day is near spent, and I still don’t know so much about English, the language my mother spoke to me in, the language in which my fantasies are born, the language in which I am most comfortable. So what chance have I with any other languages?

4. You’ve published translations of four books so far… Cobalt Blue, Baluta, I, the Salt Doll, and I want to destroy myself – which was the hardest?

Hello? I’ve published translations of Eknath Awad’s Strike a Blow to Change the World and Baburao Bagul’s The day I hid my caste and other stories since.

Cobalt Blue was the toughest because it was the first. Baluta was the toughest because it had poetry in it and words that don’t appear in Marathi dictionaries because they tend to be Brahminical. I, the Salt Doll was tough because it was a woman’s voice…you get the picture? It’s all just hard work but it is rewarding labour.

5. What was it like translating ‘Cobalt Blue’ under the shadow of Article 377?

Article 377 was the kind of law that does exactly the opposite of what a law should do. It turns people into criminals and tempts the police to venality. But when I was working on Cobalt Blue, I was simply wrestling with the language. The law and its animadversions were far from my mind.

6. What’s one of the hardest things (emotion, idiom etc) to translate?

Little grace notes. There’s ‘re’ in Marathi. What do you do with a ‘re’? We have a ‘reh’ in Konkani but it’s not the same. ‘Re’ has some measure of affection but a tiny hint of exasperation as well, at least in the way it is used to me. Consider ‘Vhaaychay’, the word in Mallika Amar Sheikh’s title. I want to destroy myself would have been a good translation of ‘vhaaycha’. ‘Vhaaychay’ is ‘I absolutely insist on destroying myself’, but then there goes the rhythm of the title.

7. Different places mean different things to different people but is there a part of Mumbai that reminds you of Goa?

Thalassa, thalassa.

8. Which was your favourite part of Mahim while growing up?

Thalassa, thalassa.

9. What’s changed irrevocably?

Me.

10. What hasn’t changed that you still love?

Thalassa, thalassa.

11. “People, even those who are in love with each other, can bore each other.” – Surviving Women (2000). Do you have a plan/advice for when this happens?

Remind yourself that the other person is also probably bored of you but the option of finding someone new, getting used to their quirks, working out a new equation, is infinitely more tedious.

12. You also said that going to the post office can be romantic. Give us three other unlikely (for most) romantic trips you can take in Mumbai.

  • Take a double-decker bus ride from Cuffe Parade to CST.
  • Take the ferry to Alibag and then come right back. Be silent and let the sea work.
  • Walk from Borivali National Park to Kanheri Caves. Walk slowly. Talk.

13. Do you get mail from fans about Em and the Big Hoom?

Yes. It humbles me.

14. How long did it take you to write it?

I say 25 years, but it took me all my life, all 45 years of living and learning my craft.

15. At the end of the book, there’s a man from whom you/the protagonist buys Chinese takeaway. Is he real? And does the place still exist?

Yes. He has warned me not to reveal his name because he says, “Now everyone will say, give us free, my Nana died, my Chacha died”.

16. We left our copy with a love note to a stranger in Florence. What’s the farthest the story has travelled?

A young man I met said he bought one of the early copies and tucked it into his backpack and read it on the way home and has never taken it out of his backpack, but he reads a little every day. I said, “Let me know when you finish?” He said he would. He hasn’t. So that copy may still be in motion. Or the young man may have forgotten that he said he would tell me, and it is now in a cupboard somewhere.

17. On a scale of 1 to 10, how interested are you in fading, melancholic divas?

Naughty, naughty. But on a scale of 1 to 10? About 23?

18. How does Mumbai treat folks who are getting older?

Like you treat shit on your shoe.

19. If you had to pick one – Helen vs Leela?

Must I? Well then, Leela, because we became friends, and when she died, I took her ashes to the sea with Selvam, the major domo who was with her at the end.

20. What’s one thing that surprised you while researching your book The Life and Times of an H-Bomb?

That Tamil film viewers thought she was a Tamil film star.

21. Could you recommend a book that talks about the people who walked back to India from Burma during WWII?

Yvonne Ezdani’s New Songs of the Survivors: The Exodus of Indians from Burma (Speaking Tiger), and not just because I have an essay in it.

22. Who is your favourite Indian film actress of all time?

I don’t believe in favourites. Or actresses. Aren’t they all actors now? But a good actor in a good role which fits her right is a delight. I’m thinking Meena Kumari in Pakeezah, Nargis in Mother India, Waheeda Rehman in Guide, Kareena Kapoor in Jab We Met, Kangna Ranaut in Queen, Shabana Azmi in Ankur, Smita Patil in Umbartha, Suchitra Sen in Aandhi, Rekha in Umrao Jaan, Jennifer Kendal in 36, Chowringhee Lane, Konkona Sensharma in Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Sharmila Tagore in Aradhana…my list is endless.

23. Three words to describe Bollywood in 2018.
Going, going, gone.

24. Are you familiar at all with internet poetry? Is that what inspired Some Ways Not To Write A Poem?

What inspired Some Ways Not To Write A Poem was the hubris of believing that I can write a poem. I apologise for it.

25. What’s the most common mistake people make when writing a poem?

See answer 24.

26. Who is your favourite modern poet?

I have no favourites. I am several multiple thirsty selves whose thirsts can sometimes only be assuaged by Emily Dickinson, or by Ted Hughes, or by Nissim Ezekiel, or by Sylvia Plath, or by Ikkuyu (who was very, very modern) or by Basho or by Adil Jussawalla or by Muktabai (ditto).

27. What sort of music do you listen to?

Bollywood from 1950 to 1980, though I am beginning to have a sneaky appreciation for classical music, but I will not talk about that because that is to open yourself to the contumely of everyone who knows their ragas from their sagas.

28. What’s the cheesiest song you know all the words or dance moves to?

The cheesiest song: Happy birday to Pinkie, Pinkie.

29. Can you do the birdie-dance?

Only birdies can’t do the birdie dance because they have too much brain.

30. What about the Macarena?

Do I look that retro?

31. Which is your favourite bookstore in Mumbai?

Kitab Khana and Wayword & Wise

32. And your favourite cinema?

I don’t go to the cinema because other people go to the cinema and they behave as Indians behave everywhere.

33. What’s the best way to people watch in the city?

I don’t like people watching in the city because it confirms me in my worst nightmares.

34. What’s your favourite city in the world?

The one whose name is poison on the tongue.

35. Do little children like you?

Little children have great good sense.

36. As a teacher and professor, what’s the best thing you’ve learned from your students?

I have learned that if I tell them to do it, I should do it and as a result, I am, I think much more disciplined and much more rigorous than I used to be before I started teaching.

37. With writing, what’s your ratio of inspiration to perspiration?

I only perspire. One per cent of it dries into hieroglyphs. One per cent of the hieroglyphs can be saved. One per cent of those are saved.

38. Any tips on how to beat writer’s block?

Ask yourself: if your cook came to you and said, “I can’t cook today, I have cook’s block”, how would you respond? And if your work is not as important as cooking, why are you doing it?

Get thee to thy table and write badly, write through the ice floes, write even when you collide with the iceberg, keep writing even as you drown, and suddenly, you will be out into the clear water.

But you won’t come out into the clear if you don’t keep putting the bad stuff down on paper. Once you’re in the clear, ignore the bad stuff.

39. It’s in the news – so tell us what percentage of men you know are freaked out by #metoo because they don’t understand it.

One hundred per cent.

40. Would yesteryear women from Bollywood have been spared some trauma if the movement had come earlier?

Is that a question? Of course, they would.

Read Manto about walking into a producer’s room and seeing him pumping the breast of an actress.

The women from the Bollywood tomorrow will be spared some trauma if the movement continues.

41. What’s one thing you know about women?

Men can’t do without women; women can do very well without men.

42. What’s one thing you wish you didn’t know about men?

Men can’t do without women; women can do very well without men.

Photograph by Vedika Singh (courtesy Jerry Pinto)

Pop by Crawford Market for A-maize-ing Popcorn

popcorn crawford market

POP BY CRAWFORD MARKET FOR A-MAIZE-ING POPCORN

Sour cream and onion, Manchurian, peri peri, and more – the humble butter popcorn gets an exciting makeover at Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s stall in Crawford Market. 

Vicky’s Popcorn, Near Dharamjyot Electricals, 79, Kerawala Mansion, Mangaldas Road, Lohar Chawl, Kalbadevi, Mumbai 400 002

READ SIMRAN AHUJA'S STORY

I was in the middle of my usual 5 p.m. hunger pangs when my colleague offered me her popcorn. "Try it,” she said, “it's sour cream and onion flavoured." Two minutes later, my nose was dusted with the seasoning as she tried to pry the packet away from me. 

The source of this magical snack was Mr. Vinay Thari Jayswal’s 40-year-old stall in Crawford Market (located at the beginning of the lane next to Bata). Of course, I visit for myself. The first thing that catches my eye is the signboard on his cart – Vicky's Popcorn and Yeh cheez badi hain mast mast (10 points for the Bollywood cheesiness). Displayed below that is the array of flavours on offer: caramel, cheese, sour cream and onion, chilli cheese, chilli tomato, Manchurian, Szechuan, and chatpata. 

Since cheese and caramel popcorn are longer a novelty, I go with three others: sour cream and onion, Manchurian, and peri peri. He promptly scoops plain popcorn into a transparent plastic bag, sprinkles in a generous serving of the flavoured seasoning, and shakes it all together into utterly, butterly deliciousness. Oh, and each of the variants costs only 30 rupees. When I ask Mr. Jayswal which is his favourite flavour, he smiles. No answer. They’re all unique, he tells me.

Well, that settles it. If he can't pick, why should you?

Feature photograph copyright Brent Hofacker  – stock.adobe.com

 

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42 Questions With Smriti Kiran

42 QUESTIONS WITH SMRITI KIRAN

In this series, we ask people the hard questions about things that matter – like girl power movies, role models, and #metoo.

This week we talk to Smriti Kiran, author, producer, and Creative Director of MAMI Film Festival.

WORDS BY THE CITY STORY TEAM

1. MAMI is 20 years old. What were you doing in 1998?

Trying to grapple with brutal working hours in the television industry and get sense of a new relationship.

2. Which was the first MAMI you attended and what was that like?

Technically, I have never attended MAMI. The first time I heard about MAMI was when I was being brought on board as a creative consultant in 2014.

3. Did you ever imagine one day you’d be Creative Director of an amazing movement like this?

No!

4. What is the best part of what you do?

The people, the challenges, the scope, the madness. If it is not frantic and wildly satisfying, then it is not worth it, and this applies to all aspects of my life.

5. What ratio of instinct: experience when watching a film helps you decide what goes into the festival?

It is 75 per cent instinct and 25 per cent experience.

6. What does a city’s taste in film tell you about the city?

I would like to assess supply before judging consumption patterns.

7. What’s special about Mumbai moviegoers?

They know their cinema and they are willing to kill to get to it!

8. MAMI is now in Delhi. Are they more likely to be star struck?

Delhi is a beast. We are still wrapping our head around it, but it is a city I grew up in, so I know that it is a beast worth investing in! Dilli ka pyaar dilli ki sardi se bhi haseen hai!

9. Have you ever been star struck?

Always, but I have learnt to keep my shit together when faced with industrial strength charm!

10. Which is your favourite single screen cinema in Mumbai?

Le Reve

11. Which has been your favourite around the world?

Out of the ones I have been to, the massive theatre in Madinat Jumeriah in Dubai.

12. No budget concerns – your dream place to holiday for 3 days, a week, permanently move…

New Zealand and Scotland

13. How do you unwind? (Or do you ever?)

Japanese Katsu Curry, boxers, and a great web series. Or vodka soda, board games, and people I can chat all night with about random stuff!!

14. Best place for a long, lazy brunch?

Pali Village Café or The Bombay Canteen

15. Where do you get the best mimosas in Mumbai?

My House.

16. Where do you go for a quick meeting and coffee in the city?

Sequel in Bandra.

17. Where do you recommend going on a girls’ night out?

Toto’s.

18. What kind of fitness routine does your schedule allow?

No kind, as you can see! Crossfit will always be a favourite. I would love to go back to it.

19. What is your favourite style of clothing?

Nicely fitted jeans, a low cut kurti, sexiest pair of keds with bling, and lots of bangles.

20. What is a random act of kindness you recently received?

A hand-written note from a person I was least expecting it from!

21. Who is your favourite Hollywood film actor?

Admire their work – Daniel Day Lewis, Nicole Kidman. To date ­­– Chris Evans.

22. Most overrated film this year?

Avengers: Infinity War

23. Most underrated film this year?

October

24. What representation of women on screen recently has thrilled you?

Tabu in Haider, Bhumi Pednekar in Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

25. What’s a classic girl power movie?

Thelma and Louise and Kill Bill

26. What are you reading right now?

If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin

27. You wrote The Original Screenplay about the making of the 3 Idiots (Hindi cinema’s most successful film) – have you ever read a Chetan Bhagat book?

Yes! Two of them, actually!

28. What are you learning about Indian writers telling Indian stories via Word To Screen?

I am discovering a lot…The learning has to still kick in!

29. Do you have a story you’ll one day make into a film?

Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ontaatje

30. Are you immune to hype about a film or TV show before you watch it?

Not immune, but I watch regardless of reviews and form my own opinion.

31. Recommend something we should watch…

The Girlfriend Experience on Amazon prime and Easy on Netflix.

32. Have you been told you’re a role model for women yet?

Shockingly, yes, but I am very far from a “traditional role model”. I feel like the naughtiest kid in the class who has been made the class monitor.

33. Who’s been your role model and why?

There are so many people. Young and old, famous and obscure. If I can learn from someone, they are a role model. It is as simple as that. Just like soulmates, I feel it is not possible to have a single role model.

34. Three ambitions you have for the rest of your lifetime…

Fitness, helping people and making a difference, and learning to not friendzone men I am interested in.

35. Fill in the blanks: Teach a man to be charming and you’ll ensure receiving thank you cards for the rest of your life.

36. What a girl wants is…

To eat all the time and not get fat!

37. What's surprised you about the #metoo movement?

The fact that it took so long to happen across the world; the fact that, despite the feeling that it took so long it feels it has come earlier than expected to India; and the fact that it has not gone as wild as it should have. We need to keep the momentum, or this will disappear, and things will become worse for women than before. Too many years of putting up with shit and adhering to age old norms and narratives.

38. Women are well represented at MAMI – how tough has this been to effect?

This has happened organically. Not a conscious decision! Regardless of gender, MAMI needs solid workhorses and mostly the women have been the ones who have stepped up to this challenge.

39. You've had to navigate some grey areas regarding axing certain films at MAMI. What's been the toughest thing to deal with? 

Causing pain to people I care about.

40. What's been the dumbest reaction you've seen to the entire situation? 

That #metoo is a fad!

41. What's it like working as a troika of boss babes?

This is the singular reason why what we do is possible!

42. You’ve worked across media… what’s the hardest industry to work in today?

News

Photograph by Tejinder Singh (courtesy Smriti Kiran)

Makers of Mumbai: Nazneen Dharamsey of Artique

MAKERS OF MUMBAI: NAZNEEN DHARAMSEY OF ARTIQUE

Nazneen Dharamsey is on a mission to bring art into our every day. Her brand, Artique, sells products ranging from mugs and business card holders to bags and umbrellas, and she’s making sure we’re surrounded by art and beauty wherever we go. To order Artique products, you can visit the Facebook page or message on 084548 07122.

WORDS BY AIKITA JARRAH

The City Story: Tell us about Artique’s journey.

Nazneen Dharamsey: Artique turned three in November this year. My mum is an artist. She studied it in college and then lost touch when life got in the way. She took up art again seven years ago. While art is very interesting, it is a small space and so unexplored. It is perceived as something that has a snob appeal and a niche and intimidating space. Art is such a holistic, expressive field and has so much untapped potential. That’s where the idea came up from for making art part of your daily consumption. It started in the home scape; soon we realised offices are another space where people spend a lot of time. So we started with daily products like coasters and trays. Now we’re also in the space of fashion and actually taking things out.

TCS: Did you study art/design? And do you do all the work yourself or do you have a team?

ND: No, I have zero experience in Art. I’m from advertising world. I started in client servicing, moved to account management and then into planning. I saw this space, which is completely new to me. I just took it up to see where it goes. I do have a sense of aesthetics. So I do know what looks nice visually. Also, essentially coming from a research background, I’ve got a deeper understanding of what consumers like and put that into play when and where I can with Artique.

Artique_003

Artique is just me. And I’ve consciously kept it that way. The minute you bring in other people, it’s different minds that get in the way. I do that enough in my other job everyday where I consult in AD projects. This is something that’s just mine, so I don’t have any timelines or restrictions.

Of course I don’t think anything is really done in isolation. I have my mum, my fiancé, and my friends who are extremely supportive of this idea and who consider themselves part of the journey.

TCS: How do you choose your designs? How do you decide which pieces make the cut?

ND: There are two kinds of paintings my mum does. Stuff that she does for exhibits and sales, and the ones she does purely for pleasure. Which is why those are very in flow, unadulterated and colourful, not made to perfection. It comes straight from the heart. It’s a constant fight picking on the ones to use. She loves her floral collection, her style is nature and abstract. I love her abstracts. Abstracts, as an art form on merchandise and home décor, is something you don’t see too often. The best thing about abstract art is that you can never recreate it. Even the artist can never really recreate it exactly the same. I love the story behind each piece of art. I try and inculcate that story when I’m trying to sell a product or talking to a prospective buyer: what’s the story behind this piece of art.

Artique_002

TCS: What do you think makes Artique stand out?

ND: I think the fact that we’re just not playing the game.

I’m not looking at what could be called competitors, and I’m not looking at their pricing and trying to figure if can I do better. I’m just doing the things that I think will work from my interaction with people. Things I think they will utilise every day. So for Artique, it’s not about pegging yourself against anyone We are just creating our own thing and taking each day as it comes. So one days it’s about products, the next day it’s about the blog, and the third day it’s something else.

TCS: Where do you see Artique going?

ND: It’s been a very conscious decision to keep the map fluid at the moment. The crux of Artique remains the same: we will always be about the everyday person, the everyday life and the role that art plays in that. There’s no other restriction. One leg of the business model is products, because that’s where the revenue is generated. The other leg we’ve worked on and we’re building right now its experience. Chatting Chai, for example, is things like the blog where we have everyday conversations over a cup of chai and try to bring art into the conversation. So at times my friend and I visit galleries around Mumbai and the blog about the experience. The blog is shared on our social media platforms. The idea is to get people to speak about art and contribute their writings. That’s something we’re building right now. At the same time, on the side I’ve started conducting these little groups, like a book club, but where people get together to discuss art and artists. It’s about getting in new age ideas about how people perceive art. Even a nine-year-old would have a clear view on how she perceives a particular piece of art. The idea is more about changing a mindset, as opposed to just selling a product.

Photographs courtesy Artique

 

Dolcemi Delivers Authentic Italian Confectionary

dolcemi italian sweets

DOLCEMI DELIVERS AUTHENTIC ITALIAN CONFECTIONERY

Dolcemi, a dessert kitchen in Bandra, is the brainchild of an Italian jewellery designer and Indian entrepreneur. Confections such as tiramisu, biscotti, semifroddo, gelato, mousse, and more can be picked up from their base or delivered to your doorstep via delivery apps. Orders have to be placed before 2 p.m. on the previous day.

Phone: +91 90290 17000 (from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday)

READ KRUTI DALAL'S STORY

Everybody knows that dolce means sweet in Italian and that Anita Ekberg was really living the good life when she waded into that Roman fountain in her legendary black dress. But dolce is also an Italian musical term – an indication to play an instrument in a tender, adoring manner; to play a chord sweetly, with a light touch. That is what Dolcemi’s tiramisu does – it caresses your palate gently, the subtle sweetness melting on your tongue. The coffee liqueur diffuses into your throat, leaving behind a warm glow instead of the familiar burning sensation. You have to close your eyes and mouth to hold on to the feeling of being in sunny Sicily before it evaporates.

The pastina de mandorla elicits a similar reaction, accompanied by a deep, content sigh possible only in the absence of guilt. The small almond biscuits – crispy on the outside with a condensed centre – are dairy-free and gluten-free. For those who crave all year for marzipan sweets, Dolcemi’s soft dough pastry is Christmas come early.

Chocolate lovers have a long list of unusual suspects to choose from, but one item stands out. The chocolate salami may sound suspicious to vegetarians, but what looks like black pudding is a log of semi-frozen dark chocolate dotted with tiny pieces of biscotti. The specks, although substantial, aren’t quite enough to grasp the incredible nature of the Italian classic.

Luckily, Dolcemi offers 100gm biscotti packets and four tempting options, including the newly introduced walnut and gianduja.

Just scanning the luscious menu is enough to cause acute cravings and intense confusion at the same time. What’s certain, however, is that to live the good life in Mumbai, you need a certain amount of foresight and Dolcemi on your speed dial. Order early, then sit back to dream about an Italian summer. All dolce things are worth waiting for.

Feature photograph courtesy Dolcemi

 

Give Thanks For Gaylord Bakery

gaylord bakery

GIVE THANKS FOR GAYLORD BAKERY

Gaylord is an iconic restaurant at Churchgate that has a bakery attached to it. It serves a wide range of breads and savoury baked goods such as pizza and quiche, as well as cakes, pastries, and pies. It’s apple pie, in particular, is delicious.

Gaylord, Mayfair Building, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai 400 020. Phone: 2282 125

READ MRIGANK WARRIER'S STORY

First, let me clarify that I have never entered Gaylord the restaurant, just three steps beyond your destination; for years, Gaylord the bakery has held my troth.

Walk in and take a deep breath. Let the food air in, and the (dieting) fad air out. Admire the display of sugar’s most magnificent heirs and use your handkerchief to mop the corners of your slavering mouth.

If you don’t like sweets, focus all your energies on living a good and pious life henceforth and hope to be reborn as someone who does. To help you bear the cross of your dessert-less existence, you are permitted to select a quiche. The quiche is good.

But if you are one of the gentlefolk who has sweet teeth that will one day make way for sweet dentures, ask for a slice of apple pie. Gaylord giveth with both hands: it offers a sticky, squelchy, open pie as well as one endowed with cashews and cinnamon, protected by a blanket of crumbly pastry. Know that I will judge you according to your choice; there is only one correct option*.

State your selection to one of the no-nonsense cashiers who roll their eyes when a customer has too many questions or takes too long to decide. These men (who get to inhale whiffs of pie all day) will ask you life’s two most important questions: “Having it here? Heat it up?”

Collect your warm slice of heaven and toddle over to the seating area where weighty, carved stone chairs dare you to drag one of them back and sit at the marble-topped table.

Plunge spoon into pie. Lift spoon to mouth. Goodbye.

*The correct option is, buy one to eat, pack one for home. Nothing less will do.

 

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Hampi: Of Magnificent Monuments And Redolent Ruins

hampi

HAMPI: OF MAGNIFICENT MONUMENTS AND REDOLENT RUINS

WORDS BY RASHMI GOPAL RAO

“How can you leave Hampi without visiting the Elephant’s Stables?” asked Zameer in a tone that exuded nothing but genuine concern and conviction.

Zameer was my super enthusiastic yet earnest ‘guide’/cab driver whom I was so glad to meet on my maiden two-day visit to Hampi. He ensured that I visited the striking domed enclosures that once housed the royal elephants before I left, and I realised my error in judgement and planning – Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, cannot be ‘done with’ in just a couple of days.

Located along the banks of the Tungabhadra in Karnataka, this unique town is set amidst rocky stones and boulders with hillocks that provide stunning views of the sunrise, sunset, and surrounding landscape peppered with banana plantations and swaying palms. Hampi was the erstwhile capital of the powerful Vijayanagar empire and reached its zenith during the 16th Century under the reign of ruler Krishnadevaraya. The town is filled with magnificent temples, monoliths, royal enclosures, marketplaces, and monuments that are evocative of the rich culture of a glorious past.

Virupaksha Temple

virupaksha temple hampi

Hampi is best explored by foot, and an ideal way to jumpstart your journey would be to visit the ancient Virupaksha Temple. Dating back to the 9th Century, the temple is dedicated to Lord Virupaksha (a form of Lord Shiva) and Goddess Pampa. The Chalukya and Hoysala rulers renovated the elaborate temple structure several times over the centuries, its highlight being the nine-tiered, 50-metre-high tower at the eastern gateway. With intricate pillars, sub-sanctums, and courtyards, the temple is an active place of worship even today and attracts large crowds during the festival months of December and February.

Hampi Bazaar

hampi bazaar

Located opposite the east end of the Virupaksha Temple is a series of pavilions (some two-storeyed) for a stretch of about one kilometre. These are the remnants of the bustling Hampi Bazaar that was a flourishing marketplace of the past. An important site where precious stones, silk, and domestic animals like cows and horses exchanged hands, the area today is more like a flea market where you can pick up colourful bags, jewellery, and miniature stone sculptures as souvenirs. A large statue of the Holy bull aka Nandi lies at the end of the bazaar, which serves as the location for the renowned annual Hampi utsava.

Sasivekalu Ganesha & Lakshmi Narasimha Statue

Lakshmi Narasimha Statue hampi

Ornate stone sculptures jostle for space with scattered shrines, mandaps, and pyramidal towers at Hampi. Do not miss the gigantic monolithic Ganesha statue called the Sasivekalu Ganesha. At about 8ft high, it is one of the town’s most stunning landmarks, along with the imposing Lakshmi Narasimha Statue, also referred to as Yoga Narasimha because the Lord is positioned on the coil of a giant seven-headed snake in a cross-legged yoga position. Both monuments date to the early 15th Century and are intrinsically associated with the landscape of the town.

Royal Enclosure

royal enclosure stepped tank hampi

The Royal Enclosure served as the ancient homes of the kings and queens and is sure to provide you with a sneak peek into the times and lives of the Vijayanagar rulers. The 8-metre-high Mahanavami Dibba is a multi-tiered enclosure with detailed carvings of animals and celestial dancers at every tier. It was used by the kings for ceremonies and for celebrations during the Navratri festival. The stepped tank, discovered as late as 1985, is another engineering marvel that was an integral part of the town's irrigation system. The enclosure also houses the Hazara Rama Temple that is replete with multiple relics, including panels and ornately decorated columns depicting scenes from the Ramayana. Located at the entrance of the Royal Enclosure is the private bathing chamber of the kings and queens built in the Indo-Islamic style of architecture. Known as Queen’s Bath, it is a rectangular structure adorned with arched corridors coupled with windows and balconies all around. The complex has a massive bath in the centre.

Vittala Temple

vittala temple chariot hampi

Arguably the most spectacular of all monuments in Hampi is the grand Vittala Temple that represents the zenith of Vijayanagar architecture. Known for its unparalleled design elements and exceptional craftsmanship, the iconic temple is widely recognised for its stone chariot and musical pillars. The temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and built in the Dravidian style of architecture with several halls, including the Sabha Mantapa, Ranga Mantapa, and Kalyana Mantapa. With a fantastic level of detail, the façade of the temple are embellished with carvings and sculptures of Gods, Goddesses, and leaping yalis (mythical leonine beasts). The stone chariot at the entrance is one of Hampi’s most photographed monuments and is often used as a symbol of Hampi itself. Dedicated to Garuda, the carrier of Lord Vishnu, it is one of the three most famous stone chariots in India (the others being in Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu and Konark in Odisha).

Archaeological Museum

Hampi is also home to the archaeological museum located in Kamalapuram. The small yet insightful museum makes for an engaging visit with several artefacts, isolated ruins, statues, and antiques on display. The scaled model of the town is a highlight of the museum.

 

In Conversation with Mortimer Chatterjee of Chatterjee & Lal

chatterjee and lal art gallery colaba

IN CONVERSATION WITH MORTIMER CHATTERJEE OF CHATTERJEE & LAL

A few steps from The Gateway of India, tucked behind the commotion of Colaba Causeway, and dotted with a number of Arabic perfumes shops is Arthur Bunder Road, home to one of the most experimental galleries in the city – Chatterjee & Lal. Started by the husband-wife duo Mortimer Chatterjee and Tara Lal, the eponymous gallery floated around the city between 2003 to 2007 before finding its permanent home on the first floor of Kamal Mansion, a space with warehouse dimensions and a seedy past that includes a brothel and a pool bar. We speak to Mortimer Chatteriee to know more about the gallery’s history and their work so far.

Chatterjee & Lal, Apollo Bandar, Colaba, Mumbai 400 005.

WORDS BY PAYAL KHANDELWAL

The City Story: Could you tell us a bit about the history of the gallery?

Mortimer Chatterjee: We both worked for the same auction house in India from 2001 to 2003. We then decided to concentrate more on contemporary art from South Asia. Around that time, very few platforms were open to showing experimental work like performance art, video, new media work. And that was very much the focus of our initial years. We were lucky, because there was this generation of artists who were our age, late 20s to early 30s, who did not have gallery representations. In a sense, we developed and grew with that generation of artists.

It was a moment in the trajectory of the city which was very receptive to new ideas and challenging and provocative work. We were the first gallery to show art coming out of Pakistan, for example. Also, the fact that the art market was beginning to expand for contemporary art allowed us to take risks.

Between 2003 and 2007, we were in a number of spaces. In 2007, we moved to the current gallery space in Colaba and have been here ever since.

TCS: How did you choose this place? What’s its history?

MC: This place used to be a brothel, and then it was a pool bar for some time.

This location is close enough to the existing art district in Kala Ghoda, and yet it’s slightly on the cheaper side. Especially in 2007, it was a very affordable proposition as the area had not yet gentrified.

Because of its warehouse dimensions, it was very amenable to showing art, especially the kinds of art we wanted to show. Also, a number of our friends and colleagues started showing in the same lane. Within two years, there were nearly 6 or 7 galleries at the same strip. Sadly, that’s not the case anymore.

So yes, the attraction to this space was because it was centrally located, cheap enough, and with the dimensions we needed.

TCS: Is there any particular exhibition in which you have especially experimented with the space?

MC: In 2010, artist Kabir Mohanty had mounted this interactive work where visitors were invited to walk into a kind of sandpit which had these microphones and sensors which would set off different sequences of sound depending on where you walked. It was extremely sophisticated. We had placed microphones outside the gallery which were feeding noises from the street into the artworks. So you could never be sure if you were listening to live sounds from the street, recorded sounds, or the sounds of your feet, as it were. That, I feel, was a very interesting use of the physical space.

TCS: What have been the most breakthrough shows so far?

MC: I would point to our two shows with Rashid Rana, in 2004-05 and 2007-08. Then we have done a two-part retrospective of Nasreen Mohamedi back in 2004-05. We have also done major shows with some Japanese artists (2008) in collaboration with the Japan Foundation. We did a series of exhibitions called ‘Simple Tales’, where we juxtaposed classical art with contemporary. This, in my view, was the first time that a contemporary art gallery in Mumbai created an exhibition that speaks to a longer historical timeline.

TCS: There has increasingly been a shift in your gallery towards showcasing historical material.

MC: Yes, absolutely. We are now pitching C&L as a space for contemporary art and historical material. There is still so much research and historical scholarship that needs to be done in visual arts. Contemporary art galleries can have a very progressive role in spearheading that trend. Especially because contemporary artists do look to their forbears to kind of think about influences and their own practices, so why shouldn’t galleries look to earlier periods in order to inform the works of the contemporary artists they show at their galleries?

chatterjee and lal

TCS: You have also done quite a few gallery swaps. What’s your view on that?

MC: We have done gallery swaps with a few galleries in New Zealand and New York. We started doing this back in 2008, when there wasn’t much of a model for doing this, and art fairs were considered a better way for galleries to travel to another city. However, in the last 10 years, the gallery exchange trend has really taken off. There is an art fair in New York called Condo in which NYC’s galleries give space to international galleries for a period of time. It allows the travelling galleries to really embed themselves in a city without the cost associated with an art fair, and they can use the existing infrastructure of their host galleries, leverage their networks, mailing lists, press contacts, etc. So it is a low cost and very effective way to reach out to a whole new demographic.

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

MC: Interaction with the artists is what we enjoy the most.

Accounts is the answer to the second part. Also, the political situation. The freedom or the perceived freedom to show what we want has become somewhat constrained in the last 5 to 6 years. Whether that’s an imagined fear or real fear, I don’t know. But it is certainly something that has seeped into the consciousness of the community.

TO MAKE A DAY OF A VISIT TO THE GALLERY, MORTIMER RECOMMENDS:

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Fuel Up With Filter Coffee At Allpress Espresso

allpress espresso coffee and roastery hackney

FUEL UP WITH FILTER COFFEE AT ALLPRESS ESPRESSO

Allpress Espresso is a roastery and café in Hackney that attributes its delicious coffee to the Hot Air Roasting Method it uses. In London, it started out being on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch, where it still sits as an espresso bar.

You can also find Allpress Espresso in Australia, Japan, and New Zealand.

Allpress Espresso, 55 Dalston Lane, Dalston, London, E8 2NG. Phone: 020 7749 1780

READ JUHI PANDE'S STORY

There are more coffee shops in Hackney than there are corner shops. Maybe this is hyperbole; maybe this is fact – either way, you are never too far away from a decent café serving average-to-excellent coffee. I’ve gone from cortados (my first brush with coffee only four years ago) to doppios and dabbled with a few soy/oat/coconut lattes along the way.

For the past six months, though, I have been obsessed with filter coffee, and I fuel my habit by front rolling to Allpress Espresso near my apartment several times a day. Allpress does excellent single-origin filter brews (as well as other permutations and combinations of the drink), but their coffee is just one aspect that keeps this particular café busy all day. Allpress in Dalston Lane is housed in an erstwhile joiner’s factory – meaning it has ample space to sit both inside and al fresco. Through the glass partition that divides the café and the roastery, you can see their massive hot air roaster (which is powered by solar panels on their roof!), and the few items on the food menu never disappoint. There isn’t any WiFi, so you will occasionally end up sitting next to someone drinking coffee, reading a book, and not much else – which is both terrifying and refreshing in our digital age.

I’ve spent sunny, rainy, hail-y, dreary, and cheery mornings at Allpress, and I always walk out feeling better.

 

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Makers of Mumbai: Rhea Chhabria of SuckIn Straws

suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria

MAKERS OF MUMBAI: RHEA CHHABRIA OF SUCKIN STRAWS

Rhea Chhabria always had the urge to do more for the environment and animals. When her pleas with restaurant owners to quit single-use straws fell on deaf ears, she co-founded SuckIN – reusable and eco-friendly bamboo and metal straws, stirrers, and cleaners.

WORDS BY SUDESHNA CHATTERJEE

The City Story: Why did you start SuckIN Eco Straws?

Rhea Chhabria: In November 2017, I was having brunch at Bastian when I met Chef Kelvin Cheung and applauded him for using paper straws. But he was disillusioned and not at all satisfied and asked me to help him find something reusable. I had made several repetitive attempts to convince other restaurant owners to quit single-use straws but failed. Therefore, I decided to take matters into my own hands and contacted my partner, Suraj Nair, to make reusable straws. We came up with the idea of metal and bamboo straws, and that gave birth to SuckIN in January 2018.

TCS: Why opt for bamboo and stainless steel as base materials?

RC: Stainless steel is a light, durable, rust-proof, flavour-free material that is available in food grade and medical grade quality; it doesn’t react with acids that might be present in foods and lasts a lifetime, just like your cutlery.

Bamboo, on the other hand, is a natural product that is fast growing, native to India, and inherently hollow, making it the perfect straw to be used up to 20 times and then put into your wet waste to naturally degrade.

TCS: How safe and hygienic are these products since they can be reused?

RC: Cleaning properly is the key factor for their safe usage. All the inner surfaces of SuckIN straws are smoothened, preventing any residual food particles, and we provide cleaning brushes that can clean the innards of the straws. Alternatively, our straws are also dishwasher safe, making the process of cleaning extremely simple and easy, whether at home or in a restaurant. We use only the best quality of steel which is rust proof, lead-free, BPA-free, and flavour-free. Using a SuckIN straw is as safe as using a spoon/fork. Bamboo is a natural product, so it doesn’t contain any chemicals. It is equally easy to clean, but being a natural product it catches on to strong natural and artificial colouring present in foods. It also could get damaged if someone has a habit of chewing on straws. We would recommend keeping it in a dry place to dehydrate it thoroughly before storing, to avoid any growth of fungus. 

suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria

TCS: It is said that although a stainless steel object can be recycled, it does not degrade. By that logic, how sustainable it is?

RC: The whole concept of stainless steel straws is that they become like your cutlery, as they last a lifetime. Stainless steel can be recycled multiple times. When need be, the steel can be melted into liquid form and converted into a new object, thus never ending up in a landfill. Our products follow the rule of the 3 Rs – reduce, reuse, and recycle, making them eco-friendly.

TCS: What are the challenges you faced setting this up, and how did you cope?

RC: Hailing from a design background, business development and management is absolutely new for me, but my partner, Suraj, has guided me through the journey. The major issues we face as a startup are addressing people’s concerns over the safety issues of reusable straws. Another pointer that our clients in the hospitality business are irritated about is of theft of straws by their customers. To combat this, we started engraving the logo of each restaurant on the straw to make their customers aware that the straw belongs to the restaurant.

TCS: What keeps you going?

RC: Preserving our planet is the need of the hour. The inherent need to see change is what keeps me going. I have grown up near Juhu beach that had clean, light sand, seashells, fish, and sea birds and have seen it transform over the years into a plastic dump with carcasses of dolphins, turtles, and whales washing up ever so often. As a scuba diver and an avid traveller, I have seen swathes of plastic floating in the sea and have always wanted to do something about it. So, having a green alternative to straws and stirrers help us prevent single-use plastic landing up in the oceans, thereby protecting marine life.

suckin straws metal disposable single use straws rhea chhabria

TCS:  How green conscious is your lifestyle?

RC: We are all aware about how consumption of meat, seafood, dairy products, and leather goods damages our planet. I gave up non-vegetarian food and leather goods in February 2016. I still do eat fish when I am travelling internationally for lack of vegetarian options. I have reduced dependency upon single-use plastic at home and in the office. Using a bamboo toothbrush, biodegradable sanitary napkins and soap bars, carrying my own reusable cutlery and water bottles, etc. are some options I religiously adhere to. In fact, anybody with a green responsibility can adopt such a lifestyle.

TCS: What are SuckIN’s future plans?

RC: We aim to create a variety of products to replace single-use plastic items. Our goal currently is to replace every plastic straw in India with reusable and eco-friendly alternatives. We can also style these options as corporate gifts. We are also working on cheaper options that we can sell to coconut vendors, udipi restaurants, and fast food chains. We are positive that we will be able to achieve all these in the next five years.

Photographs courtesy SuckIN Straws