Vibrant traditions


My husband and I are walking down a crowded street in Bengaluru, India. It is late in the afternoon, and the sun’s rays form net-like patterns on the pavement and the road.

Hundreds of small shops line both sides of the street. The shopkeepers and street hawkers are doing brisk business.

We need to stock up on cotton wicks (for our lamps), incense sticks, and a few other items. There are four shops that cater to our needs. They are all adjacent to each other, for they know that if we do not get what we want from the first shop, we will head to the next.

All four shopkeepers nod, and welcome us enthusiastically. We stop at the first shop. As I place my order, I am transfixed by the display of turmeric powder and kumkum (the red powder used for the Bindis that Indian women wear on their foreheads).

Art and Science are both at work here. The shopkeeper has painstakingly created mounds of these powders, by compacting them. They look so vibrant and colourful. The shopkeeper has planned this with precision. Just the right amount of powder to maintain the balance and prevent it from collapsing all around.

I ask him if I can take pictures. He obliges. I ask him, how he manages to take out powder from these mounds, if a customer wants to buy some!

He shows me how; I watch with bated breath. He does it with the ease of a seasoned professional. This is his turf and he smiles at my surprised look.

He packs our wicks and incense sticks. Deep from the recesses of his shop, a little boy comes running out. Presumably his son.

Family businesses that have been around for generations, carrying on the traditions of their forefathers. Selling simple, everyday things with so much creativity and beauty.

My Doll Display – Part 2


This is in continuation to my earlier post. I would like to share with you all, stories about some of my favourite doll sets from my Golu.

The first set is called the Narikuravan-Narikurathi set. These dolls are an ode to one of the earliest tribal gypsies belonging to the southern part of India.

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These gypsies belong to a larger group of Kuravan-Kurathis, hunter-gatherers, who lived in the Kurinji mountains of South India. They used bamboo extensively in their everyday lives, especially to defend themselves. This use of bamboo is largely believed to have led to the popular martial art form,  called Silambattam.

The Narikuravan-Narikurathi gypsies are still active, and craft beautiful bead necklaces and chains that they sell in public places.

These dolls were given to me by my mother.

The second set is my collection of dolls representing a South Indian wedding, and the wedding banquet that follows.

Indian weddings are colourful, noisy, vibrant events, with lots of dance, music and food. The bride and groom are seated on the ground before the sacred fire, with the priest who solemnises the wedding and guides the couple.

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The wedding banquet is usually served on huge leaves of the banana plant. Nearly 35 to 40 dishes are served. People either sit on the floor or on chairs, with the leaf spread out on a table. The catering firm has a team of people, who serve the guests. There is a protocol about which item gets served, and in which order.  There is also a definite place on the leaf for each dish.  Guests usually use their right hand to eat. Family members of the bride are usually assigned to walk around the banquet hall asking people to enjoy the food and take second helpings.

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Hope you enjoyed this post.