The Banarasis - II

Following my conversation with my grandmother and the photographs that I took of her (you can see them here, as she indulged in one of her long lost loves (the Garden), we were both filled with a sense of joy and deep contentment. The process of helping her get ready and taking her to the garden had moved something inside me. It was like re-living a moment from the past, but a whole new version of it. 

The next day I was in Patna, chatting with my Aunt. The session with my grandmother was still at the back of my mind and prompted me to ask my Aunt to tell me something that she was passionate about but hadn't had the chance to do for a long long time. 'Sports' came the answer. A few minutes later, I found out that she had been the Basketball captain at her school. She had also studied in a Convent school, a sister concern of the school that I went to in Patna (in fact one of the Principals at our school had taught her as well). I showed her photographs from my session with my grandmother and asked her if she would be okay with wearing a Banarasi sari in a basketball court. As you can see, we ended up having a brilliant time in the court, with my Aunt not only enjoying the game but also brushing up quite a few of her tricks! And, I must say, she managed to get the ball into the hoop quite a few times!! More power to her and her love for the game! She managed to run, jump, kneel down and do all the basketball moves in a sari and it was such a pleasure to watch her in action :)  

These photographs are a part of my series called 'the Banarasis' - a personal project with portraits of women engaging in a favourite activity from the past which, they have now lost touch with. They are wearing ornate Banarasis (some of which were possibly gifted to them at the time of their wedding). The idea is that the activity as well as the fabric shall serve as a conduit for exploring the relationship of these women with an older version of the self, thereby enabling them to embark on a journey into their youth and memories, whereby they are able to approach, remember, engage with, relive and revive a part of themselves, which has remained ignored due to various factors - whether age, time constraints, family commitments or even self-denial leading to a shrinking of self-esteem. When they do something they truly love, it revitalises their whole being, leading to a feeling of optimism, hope and rejuvenation of the self. 

Special thanks to Sr. Lucina at St. Joseph's Convent for permission to do this shoot in the Basketball Court that day. As luck would have it, she had been the Principal when I was in school and had come back to SJC as the Principal again, a couple of years ago! I really got lucky that she was there in school that day.

The Banarasis

Two years ago, I was sitting in my grandmother's living room (where she spends a large portion of her day) and we were talking about 'Har-singars' among several other things. She was telling me how she had neighbours from Bengal and they used to prepare kaajal by squeezing the petals and heating the nectar/juice over a low flame. She had learnt from watching them. This went on to tales of her cooking - how she used to constantly create new dishes from her mind and enjoyed the creative process. I still cannot get over the taste of the yummy Seekh Kebabs made over a coal stove and have distant memories of when she used to make them for us. The topic shifts to the 'Garden' - her passion and love and, she goes quiet. I hadn't seen her going to the Garden in the last 4-5 years (or even more) whether for health reasons or age. I ask her about it and whether she would like to come to the garden for a photograph. As you can see, she was sporting enough in more ways than one.

These photographs are a part of my series called 'the Banarasis' - a personal project with portraits of women engaging in a favourite activity from the past which, they have now lost touch with. They are wearing ornate Banarasis (some of which were possibly gifted to them at the time of their wedding). The idea is that the activity as well as the fabric shall serve as a conduit for exploring the relationship of these women with an older version of the self, thereby enabling them to embark on a journey into their youth and memories, whereby they are able to approach, remember, engage with, relive and revive a part of themselves, which has remained ignored due to various factors - whether age, time constraints, family commitments or even self-denial leading to a shrinking of self-esteem. When they do something they truly love, it revitalises their whole being, leading to a feeling of optimism, hope and rejuvenation of the self.     

Happy Birthday Mumma - a big thank you for being the wonderful, sensitive and kind person that you are. 


The name is Boss, Hugo Boss.

H-U-G-O-B-O-S-S. If the name sounds familiar, keep reading for it's not just the name adorning a pretty looking perfume bottle. We're talking about the real deal here! 

A Portrait of Hugo Boss.

Hugo, for those of us who have the privilege of knowing him, recently turned 2 and has his own opinions about the human world. He loves meeting new people and hanging around with them. I've seen him since he was 2 months old. 22 months later, here I am, taking his photos and writing about him. Why? Because knowing him and connecting with him has left an important message with me. Having a pet truly changes your life - reduces your stress levels and makes you privy to a bond which is like no other. I recall the day when I was on the Outer Ring Road and in the middle of a traffic jam, feeling stressed because I had a work related appointment and didn't want to be late. I looked to my left and saw a lab putting his head outside a car window. I saw my tension easing out completely and smiled instantly. I had that urge to meet Hugo Boss and I called up D so that I could come over and see him!

Whenever I've been at D's, I've observed that if you leave him alone for a bit - he has no qualms in coming up to you and offering his companionship. For the longest time he hadn't figured out the mirror and sincerely believed that there was another dog that lived on the other side. However, D tells me that now he likes to put his face against the mirror and look at himself! One day I wanted to know which words he responded to and D sheepishly smiled and said the Hindi equivalent for p-e-e. Immediately Hugo's expression changed and he was up, ready to go for he thought it meant another walk outside! If he makes a mistake, he knows a sweet trick or two and then you completely forget what he did in the first place, hence, forgiving him!  The best trick in his kitty so far is when he offers you a hand of friendship by lifting one of his paws. In fact, one day, he greeted me the minute I entered D's place by lifting his paw and that's when it hit me - BAM! This is no ordinary creature!

I've never had a pet (almost never) and till about 3 years ago, hadn't interacted closely with dogs. Hence, it seemed a bit funny and maybe strange when people could go on and on for hours about their pets, their stories. 2 years ago, at a cool bakery in San Francisco (cool because it's so popular that it doesn't have a name and people queue up on the pavements at 4 pm to get their freshly baked bread!), I found myself chatting with this lady who was a complete animal lover - so much so that she didn't travel much because of her pets. She saw me with my camera and was curious to hear about my story. Over a cup of coffee and some hot bread, we exchanged stories about our lives - and she suggested that I should get into pet photography. She was so good with animals that she went on to give me some tips on how to get the attention of cats v. dogs (by mentioning what kind of movements each of these kinds is attracted to). It felt like a far-fetched idea then. It's been 2 years and now, thanks to Hugo Boss, Mischief (another cute dog I know) and 'B' (and the confidence they have instilled in me) I'm able to approach pets/dogs in a completely different manner. I see now, how animals have a personality of their own, very much like human beings. They may not be able to articulate their feelings through spoken words - but perhaps it's all for the good. Less scope for confusion :o

It's also easier for me to see and understand the bond that pet lovers have with their pets. Taking the analogy to a philosophical level, you have to experience an event/phenomena/feeling/emotion to know what something truly means. Therefore, you and I will never know what it means to climb the Mount Everest till we go ahead and do it. And when we do it, it frees a part of us - brings us closer to the 'oneness' of all.

On that note, here are some photographs of Hugo Boss and D :)

HUGO and D.jpg

Wedding Stories - before and after the famous "I do"

A soul connection that got established over blog writing over a decade ago OR a friend who is convinced that her homemade sandwiches (made so lovingly by her father) was what got her fiance to start talking with her OR how the utterly butterly SWAG-factor was completely hidden from view by a Pavvam FB profile photo (and yours truly did some convincing about how cool the prospective candidate actually was!!) AND finally, the last straw (if you're a lawyer, you'll be laughing out loud) you met in a DD Room (enough said)! Sounds like a TerriblyTinyTale?!

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What's in a name? What to consider when naming your baby :)

What's in a name?

Haven't you almost always thought about a person, either with reference to his/her name and/or face? In fact, once we know people with certain names, we begin to associate these names with our 'likeness' for that person. Often, when it comes to the question of selecting/recommending names for a newborn, these 'likeness' factors which we associate with names come into play. 'Yes, that's a really nice name - I know someone from college with that name who is really pleasant, talented and popular!'

I've also observed that the name of a person impacts his/her personality to a large extent. Given that a person lives with his/her name all day-all night long, probably the name becomes a manifestation of the intention for that person. That's why 'naming' a child assumes great importance in every family and often involves endless debates/dilemmas/options/name-lists/name books/calls to friends-pandits, etc. In fact, some people are very particular about finding out which letter the newborn's name should begin with, the most auspicious day and countless other traditions involved in 'naming' their child. 

Coming down to business, these are the factors that one often keeps in mind (especially in our generation) while selecting names for the newborn (in no particular order of importance ;)):

1. Cannot be in the beginning or end of the attendance call! [Anyone who has studied a course where marks are allotted for attendance will know what I'm talking about - this rules out names with 'AA' or 'ZA'/'ZU']

2. Potential nicknames: In this day and age, everyone tends to shorten names. In fact, some people are given nick names in the beginning of college and these names have stuck with them for life. So much so, that sometimes you scratch your head wondering what their real name is! So, think about any potential nicknames (derived from shortening the proposed name) and whether you like them before you go ahead with any particular name.

3. To be safe, keep a short and simple name.  

4. Dangers of mispronunciation: Follow #3 above and you alleviate any dangers of mispronunciation as well. Also, chances of people remembering the newborn's name are higher if the name is short and simple. As the world becomes a smaller place, chances of children going to universities abroad is higher and this will definitely help them! More so, your child will thank you for saving him/her the trouble of a lifetime of corrections.

5. Trendy - but does it last? Are we looking for some meaning and inspiration instead? Tempting as it may be - a trendy name ending with aa's or which sound unique and unusual but without any real meaning, may be like the latest song topping the charts! However, what you want is something from evergreen, full of soul and meaning. Remember, it affects the child's personality! 

6. How common is the name? You don't really want to give the newborn a very common name. After all, he/she needs to be able to find a gmail address and a web domain that matches with their name. Admit it - we are living in the age of start ups and entrepreneurs. I know someone who, named his daughters based on the availability of gmail addresses and web domains and also blocked these immediately (once the name of decided).

7. Say it loudly - how does it sound? Yes. Simple. How does it sound? On this one, go with your instinct. Don't think too much. 

8. Check the initials - To avoid any unpleasant surprises, make sure you check for the initials and that they don't stand for anything you would rather not have.

9. Sibling names - If the newborn has siblings, its good to say the potential name along with the sibling's name to see how they sound together. If there is a nice ring to it, go for it! Otherwise, give it some more time.

10. Reach out to friends and family for their suggestions :) In fact, my name was suggested by an uncle who visited my mother at the hospital after I was born! Family and friends love suggesting names and often feel privileged if the name proposed by them is finally selected. A newborn baby is an occasion to celebrate and brings the entire family together. In fact, when I was recently photographing the "naming/cradle ceremony" for little Aditeya in Hyderabad, it was wonderful to see how both his Mausis had actually travelled from one end of the world to be there for his 'naming ceremony'. I also came across this wonderful tradition where all the names which were under consideration for the child would be displayed on the wall and the 'winning name' would be displayed in the end. Before disclosing the name of the child and keeping him/her in the cradle (which is beautifully decorated with flowers), they keep a rock in the cradle, called "Gundappa"! The significance is that may the child be as strong as a rock! Other charming traditions included whispering names of 'Lord Krishna' and 'Lord Shiva' in the ears of the child while passing him from one member of the family to another, before finally keeping him in the cradle.

Aditeya was at his delightful best in the evening, when he was well rested and surrounded by his wonderful grandparents and gorgeous mom and mausis. We also had a wonderful candid photography session (before the actual ceremony) when we got some beautiful smiles from the little fellow! Here are some photos from that evening.

May he be as strong as a rock!

You can view more of my lifestyle related work here.


How to get over Monday morning blues?

We are all familiar with the classic case of 'Monday Morning Blues' ("MMB"). All of us, at some point in our life, have experienced and lived through Sunday evenings in anticipation of the much dreaded MMBs. In fact, I can tell you this from my experience that it's hardly a pleasant experience and the more you think about it, the worse it becomes.

A surprise visitor can definitely cheer you up! :D

A surprise visitor can definitely cheer you up! :D

Whilst one can think at leisure about the larger solution (and whether MMBs are symptomatic of a more grave underlying situation, such as "being in the wrong place/job/profession"), to start with, here is what I would recommend to beat the MMBs:

1.  Morning routine: This works not just for Mondays but for every other day! Wake up early and ease yourself into the work week. Give yourself time to do small but simple acts which will help you think straight. Try to establish a 'morning routine' - something which puts you at ease and sorts your mind (because after all, that's what this is all about!) - it needn't be too fancy. Waking up to the simple act of making your bed, followed by a cup of your favourite morning drink, whether it's chai, coffee or warm lemon water, whatever works for you, giving yourself time to think about what you want to wear or going out for a walk/jog (more about this in point 2 below).

2. Get a dose of nature: You must be thinking that I'm crazy. By first asking you to wake up early (as opposed to continuing with the feel of the weekend for just those extra few minutes, which can extend to an hour, I know!) and establish a morning routine (seriously?) and then to go out for a walk and drain yourself of the last iota of energy you anyways were preserving for work related challengs (since you're anyways feeling drained out and exhausted - yes, already and it's only the beginning of Monday, yet!). But no, I am not kidding. Waking up early, going outside to get a dose of nature (and hopefully some fresh air, whatever you can get) can have a tremendous impact on how you start your day. It makes all the difference when you see everyone around you getting into activity, at a pace that is organic (and not crazy, where you wake up, get dressed in a hurry, grab something to eat and eat it on your way to work!). Also, nature has such a wonderful impact on our mind. It's how we are made. A part of the universe. Also, there is something about the act of walking/jogging/running (whatever suits your pace) which helps you clear your head!

3. Be productive on Friday: YES. You must be thinking that most of these things are counter-intuitive. Isn't one supposed to feel relaxed on Friday since the weekend is almost there? Well, strange as it may seem, feeling like the weekend is already there on Friday leaves you worse off on a Monday morning. You tend to push some important and difficult tasks to Monday (yes, haven't we all done that?).

4. Be productive on Monday morning, too: If you have some important things that need to be done on Monday, try attacking them first. Being productive is like a chain reaction, The more efficient and productive you are, not only will you be able to get more work done, you will also feel happy and 'over the MMBs'!

4a. A surprise visitor (like Leela, during our Corporate Headshot session) can definitely cheer you up!

5. Disengage from your smartphone: Living in a virtual world (and isn't that true for many many waking moments which we live with our smartphone!) has a negative impact on your overall well being and state of mind. You are real. Do real things in the physical world and get outside the virtual reality that we live in. Don't check your phone first thing on Monday morning. Give yourself fixed times for checking social media, emails, etc.

6. Listen to some music: Most of us connect with music and find it inspiring. Listen to some music as part of your morning routine, or when you're out for a walk, or on your way to work. It uplifts you and makes you feel good.

7. Do all things with love: From dreading Monday Mornings to reaching a point where I can jump out of bed at 7 am (that's not too early) and be charged up about work has taken me a long journey of 8 years, involving a change of profession. However, I'm glad I'm here and it's always got to do with the journey in any case. Work is like worship now (touch wood) and I couldn't feel more grateful. If you don't like something about where you are or what you are doing, take small steps and change it. If you're feeling stuck somewhere - ask yourself - 'Am I a tree?' This is really your life and you need to take charge of it. Do all things with love. This one life, it's so precious! Inspire yourself, this Monday morning!

I hope some of this will help you get over your MMBs or atleast deal with them :)

Have a great Monday and a wonderful week! <3

2015 to 2016

An experiment. Meeting the unknown. A blank sheet of paper. Like always, it always makes me discover something within myself.

My tools - a set of plastic rings I picked up from the streets of Chandni Chowk, a few coloured pens and a few hours of my time. It took me a few sheets of one-sided paper before I could meet the lines. Lose myself in the pattern, in the very act of drawing. I had several things on my 'To-do' list. This exercise was exactly what I needed to quieten the mind, to make it focus on the 'Now'.

I started off with this simple pattern. It reminded me of the beginning. Life as an atom. There was space all around, to grow, to expand. So much potential.

Then there were other colours and forms. Very much like how every moment brings different situations and how we meet them with our thoughts, feelings and emotions. The process of meditation often involves the simple act of being mindful and aware of what the mind is thinking about. Letting it be. Not trying to control it in any way. Slowly, as we begin to breathe in and out, and relax with every breath, we are able to focus on the very act of breathing and the mind quietens.

Life, and every year is like that too. It keeps repeating itself in patterns. We come across happy, sad, difficult and easy situations. This year, I wish you all not just a happy 2016, but the ability to accept and take in your stride everything that 2016 brings for you.

Life can get pretty overwhelming. Living it from moment to moment is perhaps one of the most valuable skills we can develop if we want to survive it all. Pretty much like a marathon (couldn't help sneaking in this reference, since Murakami has me glued to his 'What I talk about, when I talk about running'! Cannot help but deviate a bit on how he has revived my interest in reading. Reading as a habit, before going to sleep. I'm really enjoying it. In fact, I don't want the book to be over since I enjoy the very act of reading and having the dialogue with the author.)

It finally feels like I'm home. At peace with myself. Thank you 2015. Looking forward to 2016. Making mistakes, learning from them, always believing and being grateful - keeping alive the love, desire to explore, create and give.

Lastly, keep in mind the larger picture :) May the force be with you in 2016. Do all things with faith, love and peace in your being. Take your chances.

In the city of Nizams, Pearls and Kebabs :)

Last week I was in the city of Nizams, Pearls and Kebabs. I was there on assignment and met this wonderful family of 3. From my interactions with Kamala regarding the Family Portrait session (in the virtual space, of course), not only could I could sense her excitement and enthusiasm for the session which we had been planning since the end of October but could also sense how warm and friendly she was. Aided by descriptions about her husband and her son Vicky, I set out to begin the Family Portrait session. Thankfully, I had done a recce two days in advance and sought prior permission for photographing in the park (for the first session of the shoot), which is otherwise not permitted. The whole process of obtaining permission actually took me to the older part of the city, which I quite enjoyed :)

As you can see from the photos, when I started, Vicky was feeling (ahem!) a bit shy!!  

I decided to play along. After all, every child needs some time to warm up and get into their act! :) The patience paid off - here is Vicky, being his usual playful and cheerful self! We were rewarded with some lovely family photos and a great time in the park!

Questions. No answers.

Just when you feel you've figured it out and reached a positive state of equilibrium, or perhaps the ability to deal with what you think may be coming your way, Life reminds you that it's not all that simple. You feel great in the morning, so much so, that you feel that your decision to go for a walk convinced the sun to come out, and then, you hear about something which makes your heart sink. Bottom line is - you can never be prepared for Life. Or, try to protect yourself from getting hurt or upset. The only way to achieve the latter would be to stop being vulnerable, to stop feeling for those you love or miss. Is this state of non- attachment or equanimity (in sadness and happiness) what we are really trying to achieve?

The 'Bombay Theme song' is playing on loop. It's peaceful and yet, sad. I started listening to it again after almost a decade and it feels as if the piece has become deeper and more profound now. I guess it engages with my mind in a different way now. Or perhaps, the mind has been exposed to a different range of sentiments over the last decade. I wonder if this piece is an expression of something A.R. Rahman experienced - it's too beautiful, pure and deep to not have any linkage to something real he experienced. The point is not anything at all.

The photograph posted below was taken at the Alfama Square in Lisbon. Lisbon had a strange beauty to it. Almost melancholic. Just like this tune which plays on and lingers in my mind even after it has stopped playing. A common sight in Lisbon was that of the older women "people-watching" from their balconies. I wonder if it's so entertaining or it's for lack of something better to do. If they knew I was writing about them, they may wonder the same thing about me. So, why judge? The point I am trying to make (or not make) is that when you feel you've turned a bit wiser or have become less sentimental, you suddenly begin to re-think it all and wonder whether you got it right at all.  

Old lady in Alfama, Lisbon

Old lady in Alfama, Lisbon

Next track, please.

Start with the self.

Came across this beautiful piece by the Berklee Indian Ensemble. Watching this diverse group of musicians performing A.R. Rahman's 'Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera' gave me goosebumps - restores my faith in the many factors which can still bring people from all over the world together. Anything which is pure and comes from within the deepest part of our soul can only unite and bring us all together.

Perhaps we all need to be true to ourselves. Look inside and see what matters. Maybe this is one way of reducing the chaos in the world. Starting with the self and the chaos within. Let's simplify our lives. Sharing this beautiful piece of music which gives me hope that the forces that unite the world can emerge stronger than those that divide and create fear, terror.

Mann-ki-dala#1 - Lessons along the way

I'm done with colouring my first Mandala! :) i had a feeling it would lead me somewhere, though I wasn't exactly sure where (very much like Life!). However, I did learn a few things as I started filling in the colours: jotted down a few thoughts because I thought they made sense.

(i) As I started colouring, I wondered if I should decide the colours in advance. What if I made a mistake and it didn't look good?  Lesson#1: You cannot be prepared for everything; Do it anyways. 

(ii)  'Just follow your instincts - it's just a drawing!' I was surprised with the outcome as I started colouring as per my instincts. At first, a certain colour may not fit in, but as I filled in more and more of the blank spaces going with my intuition, the colours started matching. Lesson #2: What you do at any given point in time may not make complete sense (to others, or even you) at that point; Do it anyways.

(iii) While filling in the colours, I was grateful for the paper - the thickness and richness of it. It had already been subject to the pencil, pen marks, the eraser and now the colours. However, it withstood it all. Lesson#3: Not every paper you colour on can take it, find the variety that can take it! Very much like life, I thought - sometimes we are just not ready for certain experiences. it doesn't mean that the experience is wrong - neither the paper nor the colours. Just that combination at that time.


(iv) As I wondered what next - I thought about my bottle of turquoise ink sitting pretty in one corner. If not now - when? It was well worth every penny as the blue added that extra zing! Lesson#4: Some investments come in handy later. I always knew the blue ink did me good. My love for blue was revived again, this morning. 

(v) As I filled in more and more of the blank spaces, I was thankful that I had let the black ink outline settle in well.Lesson#5: Everything takes its own sweet time. Even time. As also, revelations.  It took two days to get to the stage of colouring the mandala and with certain other revelations, close to two years. Lesson#6: You will never know in advance how much time is enough. Life happens when you live it. Believe. Keep colouring. It's okay to change your mind. Go out there, experience the joy, sorrow and the pain. Sometimes you won't even know how to deal with the pain and the sorrow and it will take the genius of Murakami to draw home a point, to make you understand an experience (or a song from Ayo - Life is Real!).

(vi) When I wasn't sure about something, I would colour the easiest bits first. Sometimes its just easy to get the easy stuff done first. Lesson#7: Even the small steps help you walk on your path, even though slowly. As you keep walking, clarity comes anyways!

(vii) Almost done with it - what day is it today? The music on my playlist, the colours, my frame of mind - my understanding (or lack of it) time, space - everything makes sense. Lesson#8: All the time in this world is yours. Spend it wisely, doing things you love. Believe in the larger scheme of things and know that difficulties and doubts will arise and, also disappear provided you keep going on. Act with the best intentions and do what you must. That is the only thing you can do. There is no right or wrong. Respect the differences.

Celebrating the invisible spectrum of light, the goodness within - Happy Diwali!

I began the day by reading about 'light', i.e. in scientific terms, the electromagnetic radiation which travels through space in tiny bundles called photons. How incredible is it, that 'Light' = 'Photons' = 'Pure Energy' (No mass). It is the energy of the photon which produces an electromagnetic field around it. As we all know, the electromagnetic field of some photons fluctuates faster than that of others. In simpler terms, the more energy a photon has, the faster the fluctuation. Human eyes can detect this difference in the photon energy levels and the rate of field fluctuation, in the form of 'colour'. The rate of fluctuation of the electromagnetic field is its frequency. Visible light is only one narrow range out of the many possible electromagnetic frequencies.

For starters, we all agree that when it comes to 'Light', there is more than what meets the eye! Life too, is a similar phenomena. We are often blessed with so much goodness that if we were to count our blessings, we would probably lose count! Yet, we often cannot 'see' these blessings and get worked up about worries which are perhaps grounded on our own fears, prejudices and conditioning. I had the privilege of spending a few days with these wonderful children at a school in Bangalore. Whilst I started this project with a certain story line of 'black and white' images (thinking that it would be appropriate to represent their vision through the absence of colour), I couldn't have been more incorrect in my presumptions. By watching, interacting with and photographing these children, I realized that whilst they lacked one of the most important sensory abilities, they were brimming with enthusiasm, an unmatched curiosity to explore all that life has to offer and an innocence so beautiful, that it touches your very core. It didn't seem as if they felt that anything was missing in their life. In the true sense, they were the 'Children of Light'.

Sometimes, we emphasize more on what's missing in our life and, while doing so, we miss out on many other beautiful things. Let's begin this Diwali by celebrating the invisible spectrum of light, the goodness that often goes unnoticed. In gratitude. Let's be.