Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Jaipur Literature Festival - Under the Kilt

An absolutely hilarious conversation between 4 Scots. Niall Ferguson, William Dalrymple, Alexander McCall Smith and Andrew O'Hagan.
Itwould be impossible to try to recreate the electric tension, the wit and the repartee of this session on a blog, so I will not even attempt it. Just to sum up, the theme of the discussion seemed to be Scottish Miserabilism.

If the conversation doesn't seem to flow it is mainly because I was laughing so hard, I often missed parts of the conversation :)

The question: Are Scots, really serious about their independence from the UK? was responded to with "In 2006, the National Scottish Party realised that Independence would also mean stop of funds from England, so they have brought their plans almost to a standstill"

There are supposedly deep divisions in Scotland between Edinburgh vs Glasgow. The obvious reason could be their religious orientation Catholic vs Protestant, but it could as well be because of their football teams - Celtics vs Rangers.

A simple question like "How are you?" is normally answered with a gloomy "I'm surviving" or even worse "I'm doomed" Perhaps Scottish Pessimism is the perfect antidote to American Optimism?

If you try to brighten up the mood with the standard American "Nice Day", it would most likely be answered with "Aye, and we'll have to pay for it"

While they are terribly pessimistic, they consider the ENglish far worse. If Ireland has an inferiority complex in their nationalism approach, then the trouble with Scotland is that it has a superiority complex.

As evidence - the East Indian company was full of Scots who saw more opportunities abroad than across the border.

National Self Deprecation seems to be the norm for the Scots. It was indeed remarkable to hear 4 well known authors and hence brand ambassadors for Scotland speaking so about their native land even with the Scottish press in attendance. I Don't think they will be troubled by anyone asking them to apologise or say they were misquoted and revoke their statements any time soon.

Being able to laugh at yourself could be a great antidote to the myriad organisation pop-ups across India who seem to take themselves too seriously

This session was a laugh riot and a wonderful final session for us, before we began our drive back to Delhi.


Jaipur Literature Festival - Diana Chronicles

24 Mar 2010
 This event was initially planned to be held at the Durbar Hall. Fortunately the organisers realised that it would be more practical to accomodate the crowd building up on the Front Lawns (which weren't being used in this time slot)

A conversation between Tina Brown and Vir Sanghvi about Browns latest book -

Vir Sanghvi is a brilliant speaker. Well Read, well prepared, who takes care to be well informed before conducting any interview. Tina Brown has worked with Tattler, Vanity Fair and the New Yorker. She claims that her special relationship with Diana gave her a little more intimate insight into the life of the Princess. To add to this, she interviewed at least 300 people for the book. Some of whom haven't spoken to any other Diana biographers before.

Sanghvi quickly questioned Brown to extract the main highlights of the book. How Camilla was having an affair with Charles long before his wedding was ever finalised. In fact, she gave her stamp of approval to the marriage, thinking that Diana would be a quiet country mouse. Unfortunately for her plans, Diana turned out to be the mouse that roared.

Diana, was the first person to use her celebrity status to fight for a cause and take it global in a globall massing of attention. The press became her lovers in a sense and she garnered so much attention, that it was often humiliating for Charles when he travelled with her to see people rush to be by her side and speak to her.

It has since emerged that the Royal train is the safest place for a monarch to have an affair as it is exclusively used for them and their security detail, not a single papparatzo in sight.

She paints Diana as a lonely woman constantly trying to find a man who would love her for what she was and always coming up short. The contrasts between her and Dodi could not be more stark, but he seemed able to love her and handle the immense media attention that followed her everywhere. Brown thought that this was one relationship that could have really worked for her, if it wasn't cut short so tragically.

Jaipur Literature Festival - Against the Wind

24 Jan 2010

Namita Gokhale in conversation with Sister Jesme, author of Amen: An Autobiography of a Nun and P Sivakami - the first Tamil Dalit Woman to write a novel..
Sister Jesme is a Malyali Catholic Nun who has recently left the convent in protest against the abuses she faced within the walls of the convent. Her book is a real life account fo what goes on behind those walls. While it was a struggle for her to go through it all while she was on the inside, she feels the struggle isn't any easier on the outside. The only thing that gives her encouragement is that her courage to come forward is prompting others from within the priesthood and nunnery to haltingly come forward with their own horrifying experiences.

P Sivakami is an an ex-IAS officer. Her books speak of the poor and downtrodden and the misery they undergo. When she was first called a "Dalit writer", writing about the "Dalit Experience" it upset her, but she now welcomes the terms because she feels that it brings awareness to the Dalit problems.

Both courageous women in their own way, it was inspiring to hear of face how they conquered their fears and overcame their battles.

Jaipur Literature Festival - Nine Lives Readings & Performances

23 January 2010

This was a sun down program. While the rest of Jaipur was dry for some elections/rally (or some other political reason), permissions had been got at the Diggi Palace to provide liquid fortification to the attendees and authors.

The evening started with Readings and Performances from William Dalrymple's Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India
The readings were interspersed with vocals by Paban Das Baul and Kanai Das Baul & Debdas Baul. The latter two being the main protagonists of the 9th tale - The Song of the Blind Ministrel

The words, the lyrics, the chanting, the atmosphere, the crowd, the open air seating all just combined to make this a mesmerising and magical evening.

There was more to come. Susheela Raman - a British Tamil Musician came on stage to perform with Sam Mills
, Nathoo Lal Solanki and Chugee Khan. The music was absolutely out of this world. This is true World Music. Tamil classical raagas sundg with a stong husky voice, jazzed up with rock and other beats. Its a CD worth buying.
This picture was taken in the afternoon while they were reheasing. In the evening, we lost ourselves in the music and completely forgot to take pictures!


Jaipur Literature Festival - Vatsayan & the Erotic & The Caferati Meet

23 Jan 2010

Warning: This post discusses adult content

This was a session with Sudhir Kakar and Ruchir Joshi. The former read from his fictional biography of Vatsayan - The Ascetic of Desire: A Novel of the Kama Sutra and the latter from his contemporary erotic anthology - Electric Feather.

Since very little is known about Vatsayan himself, this biography is mostly fictional with Kakar ascribing his knowledge to being born & brought up in a brothel, although he himself remained chaste and faithful to his wife.

Kakar read a portion of his book and then went about dispelling some myths associated with Vatsayan and the Kamasutra. The Kamasutra is not all about sex. Only Chapter 2 of the 7 chapters deals with the subject. (Parallelly, only 10% of the sculptures at Khajuraho are sexual in nature) and it is a text book of sensuality rather than sexuality. It stresses on how pleasure needs to be cultivated.

When Vatsayan originally write the Kamasutra, he recommended that every woman read it before she was married (sometime as early as the age of 14-15). The first translator of the book brought his own chauvinistic attitude to the fore when he recommended that women should read it , but only with the permission of their husbands!

In Western Literature, a woman is seen as a fort that needs to be captured, especially when you look at the language used to describe attraction and mating rituals. The focus is on sexual not sensual love which is in complete contradiction to Vatsayan who introduces "love" in marraige. According to him, the goal of marriage is love (which went against most dharam shastras of his time)

Vatsayan was a believer in womens emancipation to the extent that one of the chapters even details how to get rid of a man - do not laugh at his jokes, look at him like he is a fool, etc. Way before his time!

Ruchir Joshi, read a passage from his book, which didn't sound too interesting. He used his time trying to market his book, but didn't do it very effectively.

We couldn't stay on for the question answer session, because we were to leave for the Caferati meet. since so many book lovers and aspiring authors who are members of Caferati (a group of writers in English spread across the globe) were planning to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival, a special read-meet was planned at the Caferati Jaipur haunt.- Samanvai Art Gallery on MI Road. There were at least 35-40 members who attended the meet and it was good to put names to faces from across the country. Would have loved to post a picture of the meet here, but as a rule, I do not upload personal photos of people on my blog (unless they are used to being in the media glare or its is a group shot where faces aren't distinct) Facebook friends can see the pictures in my Jaipur photo album.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Jaipur Literature Festival - The Lonely Planet Story

23 Jan 2010

We were truly fortunate to have the honor of hearing Tony Wheeler - the Founder of the iconic and essential Lonely Planet guides in conversation with William Dalrymple.

Tony seemed a little reticent when it came to speaking and Dalrymple skillfully guided him on a memory trail by questioning him about the key turning points in his life.

Tony Wheeler started his life by living in Karachi and the Bahamas before his family moved to Detroit. He remembers feeling at that time that "You should always be slightly uncomfortable, if you aren't uncomfortable, you can't enjoy it"

While Tony loved travelling and writing, it was his wife Maureen Wheeler who kept the company running, even going as far as to say "Lonely Planet would not have started without you Tony, but it would have fallen flat on its face without me"

When he first started travelling independently, there were very few guide books available in the market, the notable ones at that time were Merry's Guide to India (1970) and the Bit's Guide.

In those days Thailand saw maybe a 100,000 tourists in a year. Today the number stands at 8 Million a year. In those days Singapore had character, but today it is an air conditioned shopping center.

He recounted his passport being stamped "SHIT" at the Malaysian border, allegedly standing for Suspected Hippie in Transit.

The first Lonely Planet was started in October 1973. He and Maureen had landed in Australia with no money and he had to pawn his camera to be able to buy food. 8500 copies were printed of the first edition of the LP. Today these originals are collectors editions.

He is sometimes asked if it is ethical to puiblish LP guides for places like Burma. Isn't there a moral responsibility? His response is that the more people that visit, the more the points of contact. Engaging with countires on a non-diplomatic platform has its own effect and makes a difference to the traveller and the people from the host country that he/she comes in contact with.

LP was recently sold to BBC worldwide (he declined to specify the price), but he and Maureen have retained a substantial minority of the shares. The reason they sold to BBC was that they felt it was a good, responsible company which shared a similar vision to them.

He also promised that the LP magazine would soon be launched in India.

When asked if the internet and other modern technologies like Kindle and internet access on phones would kill travel guides like the LP he closed the session by saying "If you drop your LP in the water, you can pick it out, dry it and reuse it. If you drop your kindle in water, throw it out and forget about it."

Jaipur Literature Festival - Wanderlust

23 January 2010
Wanderlust - A Session with Travel Writers of different kinds.
Brigid Keenan who travelled and relocated across the globe with a young family as the wife of an EU Ambassador who spent 35 years in 9 different countries with Vietnam being the only move by her own choice. She tries to recreate her English home in whichever part of the word she moves to. She read a piece from her book

Isabel Hilton is a journalist who also writes about her travels. Hence her writing is a journalistic viewpoint that is heavily fact based but also slightly humanised with stories. She read a piece from her book about Greenland.

Geoff Dyer who writes travel as fiction, read an extremely humorous piece from 

William Dalrymple who described himself as  the stereotypical Single White Male, off with a backpack into the Oriental world, weaves in a lot of history into his books.Even his narrative style is extremely poetic, where he describes a city before naming it.

Travel Writing is a very ancient form of writing, originating perhaps with the Japanese and Buddhist monks who came to India and each of these writers has broadened the genre in a different style.

Jaipur Literature Festival - In Search of Sita

22 January 2010
I absolutely loved the book  - In Search of Sita : Revisiting Mythology and I just had to be there for this session.
An anthology compiled by Namita Gokhaleand Malashri Lal. (Namita is also one of the 2 Festival Directors of the Jaipur Literature Festival) it has contributions from numerous well known and not so well known authors. (I will review this book seperately). 3 of the other contributors who were part of this session were Lord Meghnad Desai, Reba Som, Chitra Ghosh Jain and Devdutt Pattanaik

Namita started off the session saying that she was once asked if her book was about Sita - the wife of Ram. She responded "No, this book is about Sita whom Ram was the husband of" and this truly encapsulates the spirit of this collection.

Lord Meghnad Desai then expounded on his view of Sita. That he originally believed in the role of Sita as victim, but as he read more about her and researched more about her, it wasn't so. He was fascinated by her married life. By most accounts, Sita was married when she was around 12-13 years old to Ram who was about 14-15 years old. They weren't sent to the forest until Ram was around 28 and by the time they came back to Kosala they were around 40 and 42 years old. During all this time Sita did not have children.

An interesting point to note is that most men in the epics are impotent and child creating is outsourced. Women who are portrayed as passive are also autonomous to the point were they had complete control over reproduction. Since very little is mentioned about Sita in Valmiki's Ramayana, hence there is a lot more room for speculation about her. Perhaps she did not want to bear children until Rama was king and she could be assured of a throne for her children?

Malashri Lal read an excerpt from the book and commented that what was most noteworthy is that Rama never remarried even though he lived in a time where monogamy was an exception, especially for a king. so perhaps he had found the ideal woman in Sita and needed no other or no other could match up to her.

Dr Reba Som spoke of her contribution, where she took an approach to the symbolism of Sita in the political sphere going right back to Democratic India's First Leaders - Nehru and Gandhi.

Gandhi chose Sita as the ideal woman for the Indian woman to emulate. He advocated women to show their resistance through methods involving boycotts, picketting, weaving Khadi. These roles for women exemplified the silent, stoic embodiment of Sita. He did not seem to want women to overstep these roles. He was against them joining in strikes and courting arrest. He did feel that women had a role to play in the freedom struggle, but they were vastly different from the roles he defined for men.He actively projected the role of Sita onto the women who wanted to participate in the Freedom Struggle.

Nehru preferred to project Chitrangada on the Indian woman. Chitrangada from the Mahabharath was a Manipuri Princess (who later married Arjuna) who was brought up by her father the king, as a son. A warrior princess. Equal and No less to a man. Hence what impressed Nehru most about women's participation in the Civil Disobedience Movement, was its equalising impact (between women of diverse socio-economic backgrounds & as co-sharers with men)

Chitra Ghosh Jain read from her contribution - a piece of speculative fiction called "Sita's Letter to her Unborn Daughter" which she reimagines the tale of Sita conceiving a daughter instead of 2 sons in the time of rampant female foeticide.

Devdutt Pattanaik started with an extremely telling statement - "When in India, if you write about Ram, you will invariably be gagged by someone. If you say something positive about him, the left wing will get all upset and call you patriarchal. If you say he was a good husband, the feminists will jump in to say that he was definitely not a good husband. If you say anything negative about him, the entire right wing gets upset and says that he is a God, how can you say anything against him?"

Coming to mythological symbolism, In any Indian temple depiction, you will see "Dampatya" - man and woman together. They cannot be taken in isolation. Whether it is the mother-son relationship of Renuka and Parashuram, the friends Krishna and Draupadi or husband & wife/consort - Shiv and Parvati they form two halves of a whole.When People referred to Ram, it used to be as Siya-Ram (Sita-Ram).

Sita is an embodiment of a woman who can be as wild as Kali or as Domesticated as Gauri. Whereas in the commonly followed versions of Ramayan (Valmiki & Tulsidas) it is Sita who is portrayed as a delicate being needing protection and Surpanakha is portrayed as a demoness for stating her wants and being open about her needs.

Once the authors had summarised their visions of Sita, there was hardly any time left for audience questions. But the one that was asked by an angry man in the audience was "How can you say all these things about Sita. There is no evidence of it in the Ramayana!" This was when he was corrected saying that "It might not be there in the popularly followed Ramayan of the Hindi speaking belt of India which formed the basis for the TV serial, but you will find these stories and more in the other versions of Ramayan which abound all over India and beyond her shores.

Jaipur Literature Festival - Found in Translation

22 January 2010
The first session that I attended. Ira Pande wasn't around so Malashri Lal was moderating the discussion between Arunava Sinha and Gillian Wright.

The translator/authors both read out passages from their books and  then answered audience questions. It seemed like a lot of members of the audience were genuinely interested in Translation as a field of work.

The questions ranged from:
How would you translate a colloquial term like "jhit pit"?
-If its a word that resembles a sound made, I would leave it as it is, because it will sound the smae in any language.

If you have to use terms like anklet/pallav repeatedly would you keep replacing them with terms like leg bracelet, open end of a sari?
- I would use the term as is and then include explanations in a glossary at the end
- I would let the sentence be self - explanatory about the term
"She tucked the open end of the pallav in at her waist"

Do translations take away from the original?
- Translation enables a wider readership even though there may be some losses in words/phrases that just cannot be translated.

What are the biggest challenges faced by a translator?
- to recreate the vibrancy of the original.
- Which form of English to use? The English that was in vogue during the time perios the story is set in/written in? the English, I think the character would use? Or the English that I would use in that situation.

It was an interesting session because of the audience interaction and it seemed like this was the first chance the budding translators had got, to speak with people well established in this line.

The January Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) - A Roundup

I was very excited when my husband told me in late December that he had a conference coming up in Jaipur on the 22nd and 23rd of January. I had been wondering how to convince him, for us to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival in the middle of our maddenning househunt and relocation to Delhi.

The fates were working in my favor and given our common interest in literature,  I was set to join him as we also tagged Sunday into this break, aiming to attend at least 3 of the 5 days.

We had decided to drive to Jaipur to enjoy the Indian countryside and mustard fields in bloom.
It had been over 4 years since we had eaten @ a dhabha, so we had to stop midway for breakfast of paneer pakodas (cottage cheese fritters) and anda burji (scrambled eggs, Indian style)
With sated tummies and the fog lifting mid-way through the (normally) 4 hour drive, we were now much more relaxed and able to enjoy the rest of the journey.

The company had provided really lovely accomodation at the Le Meridien, Jaipur But, while this was a brilliant property - well suited for conferences. It is a fair bit out of the city and almost an hours drive (in traffic) to the Diggi Palace Hotel where the Literature Festival was on.

So with the fog and late arrival at hotel necessiating immediate lunch :), by the time I reached the venue on Friday (22nd Jan) it was already 3:30 and more than half the scheduled programs for the day were over.

When I got out of the car, the first venue I saw had a "We the People Debate"  on the topic "Can the Internet Save Books?" being moderated by Barkha Dutt on the Front Lawns. Not being a great Barkha Fan and finding little new light being shed on the subject, I decided to wander around and get a feel of the place.

The online program (which I had duly transcribed into an .xls file - highlighting the events that I did not want to miss) indicated that events would happen simultaneously at 4 different locations of the grounds - Durbar Hall, Mughal Tent, Baithak and Front Lawns.

At this point, I should mention that entry to the Jaipur Literature Festival is completely free. This being its 5th year, it has since last year received immense media coverage and hence the crowds were really thronging the venue. Yet the crowd was extremely well behaved. No shoving or jostling. Seating on first cum basis. Those who did not get seats would politely sit on the floors in the aisles or stand on the sides or at the back. Best selling authors would also politely stand at the sides if the venue was full by the time they arived. But then authors are overall a very well mannered lot.

There was a delegate pass on a sliding scale costing around 2500Rs on the first day, (and 500 less on each subsequent day if I remember right)  which entitled holders to eat all 3 meals on the premises and a wonderful goody bag. But since breakfast and dinner was included in our hotel package, it did not make sense for us.

Just one of the little suprises - At one of the sessions; a quiet gentleman was sitting beside me, who raised a very intelligent question at the end. He was actually the Chief of Police of Jaipur. Where else would you see that in this country? (a quiet, unobtrusive, non assuming, non attitude throwing, well read Police Chief?)

Vasundhara Raje was present almost everyday for at least an hour or so with just one plain clothes person guarding her with nary a gun in sight. The media was falling over themselves to get a soundbyte from her (I wouldn't call it an interview), but I overheard a group of school girls saying "woh aurat kaun hain? aur media un ke peeche itne paagal kyun hain?" (Who is that woman and why is the media hounding her?) - Just the ex Chief Minister of your State darlings!

There were a few film personalities around - Javed Akhtar, Shabana Azmi, Girish Karnad, Rahul Bose, Neena Gupta, On Puri among others. But the "celebrities" at this festival were undoubtedly the authors.

A few bookshops like Full Circle had set up tents on the premises where you could buy books if you liked. Bestsellers and books by the authors were being sold, for those who wanted to pick up something after listening to an author speak or wanting to get an autograph on.

Girish Karnad for example was polite but clear that he would not sign on the notebooks that were being pressed on him by gaggles of giggling schoolgirls. He was very polite in saying that "My books are avilable at the bookshop, I am here for awhile. If you bring one of my books, I will sign it for you, but on principle, I will only sign on my own books"

Other authors were either of similar viewpoints or generally obliging all their fans. But even William Dalrymple(WD) was forced to draw the line when one of these schoolgirls(SG) took out a pirated copy of his latest book Nine Lives: In Search of the Sacred in Modern India and asked him to autograph it. I was right there when it happenned.
SG: Sir, Please Sign this book for me
WD: This is a pirated copy. I have not yet seen a pirated copy of Nine Lives, is it out already? I'm sorry, but I cannot sign this.
SG: Please sir, please sign it for me.
WD: I'm sorry, but I will not sign a pirated copy. (In an aside to Geoff Dyer-GD standing nearby) Geoff would you autograph pirated copies?
GD : (self deprecatingly) I don't think I'm popular enough for my books to be pirated, I've never been faced with one myself.
SG: But what is the problem Sir? Why will you not sign my book?
WD: Please buy an authorised copy of my book from the store here and I will be happy to sign it for you, but I will not sign a pirated copy.

I must mention that these schoolgirls I speak about are from a very reputed school in Rajasthan. The girls were all from Highschool (14-16 year olds) or engineering college (16-19yr olds) so old enough to know better. For the most part, they were well behaved, but there were some of them who were treating the whole thing as just another picnic.

They were at their worst when Chetan Baghat walked in. Of all the fantastic authors around, he, the least significant, who has written so much cr@p (Have you Read "One Night at the Call Centre"?) was surrounded by hordes of girls who were later heard whispering "You know? he smiled at me." Shows what a little controversy (3 Idiots and the credits for it - the orchestrated drama was still in the news) can do to a persons recognisability.

What I did like about the festival was that every session started on time. 4 parallel sessions, multiple award winning authors, eager fans and public wanting more time for question-answer sessions - yet every session started and ended on time. Authors politely asked fans to step out of the tent or off the main area, so the next group could get started and patiently autographed books for their adoring public on the side.

Brilliantly managed. Although I do think they will need to shift to a larger venue next year as the location was bursting at the seams this year.

Will write seperate posts about some of the sessions I attended - individually.

But to sum up, this is a wonderful idea with fantastic implementation, co-ordinated by Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple and I hope and pray that it continues to grow in the coming years.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bread Talk, Gurgaon

I was first aquainted with Bread Talk 5 years ago when they opened their Bombay branch at the Inorbit Mall in Malad. A semi innovative concept allowing the picking of your choice of savoury and sweet breads on a tray with a pair of tongs (a la Hot Breads). The innovations were in the myriad shapes and stuffings available.

The Gurgaon outlet has more of the same although their premises are much smaller than what I remember in Bombay, hence the varieties on offer also seems much less. But the taste and quality are as high as ever.

Stuffed breads filled with flavored, chicken, vegetables cost about 60rs each with tax. One piece would be enough for a snack and 2-3 would make a light meal.

I also recommend the Japanese Cheese cake (Rs 250 + tax) which is as light as a souffle.

Try it out when you want to stock up on some fresh baked bites.

Spencer's Hypermarket, Gurgaon

Located in the basement of MGF mall in Gurgaon (the CTC plaza signage may mislead you into thinking that, that is the name of the mall), I have finally found what I've been looking for.

After searching all over Delhi for a half way decent supermarket its a real relief to find that I do have options. Even if it entails a 2 hour drive back and forth.

The pleasure of being able to find everything in one location and pile it into a shopping trolley has no match.

I agree that Delhi has wonderful local markets, but I like to be able to go to one location and buy 5 kilos of rice, 5 kilos of atta, toothpaste, deos, fruits, vegetables, oil, masalas, meat. biscuits, paneer, frozen food, wine etc without having to ask anyone to carry my load on their head or try and juggle multiple paper bags and rummage in my purse for change in yet another shop before I can get to the car.

Also this Hypermart has way better quality, range, service staff and cleanliness than their smaller Delhi operations.

It is small where Hypermarts go, but at least I can find 90% of the items on my shopping list in one place.

Between Godrej Nature Basket and Spencers Hypermart, it looks like I'm finally set in the Grocery Shopping quest.

Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Bazaar in Gurgaon

The Tamil Nadu Handicrafts Development Corporation is holidng a bazaar at the open grounds near IFFCO chowk in Gurgaon from the 20th to the 30th of March. (11am-9pm)
A lot of the sub stalls from Poompuhar (the TN state Emporium in Delhi) are selling their wares at 10%-50% discount. There's co-optex, some semi precious gems, Tanjore paintings, brass work, furniture and a host of other items on offer. There was a sari stall which had some "different designs" - not co-optex - but the stall owner was nowhere to be found :(

There's a lot of non Tamilian handicrafts too. Egyptian paintings, bamboo craft etc.

Worth a look only if you are looking for something specific or want to shop in semi-open-air

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Red Moon Bakery

Finally, I have found a bit of heaven in Delhi. Even if it is located in Sarita Vihar.

I first had a taste of their brownies at Godrej Nature Basket which I found extremely addictive. And then I saw the sub branding of Red Moon Bakery. A foodie on a quest was I. If this bakery could make such amazing brownies, what other goodies did they have to offer?

So, I turned to my trusted friend, and found their website, facebook fan page and an ADDRESS!
Red Moon Bakery
Shop #32,
Local Shopping Complex
Pocket D and E
Sarita Vihar
New Delhi, 110 076
011 4053 4797
 It was a little tough to locate, but once I was in the right community market within Sarita Vihar (I visited 3 before I found the D/E Market), I just had to follow my nose from the parking lot.

The premises are tiny, but the goodies on offer are better than those, from many a 5 star coffee shop/pattiserrie.

The bakery was started and operated by a Canadian couple - David and Anna Hambly and has some unique items which are not yet available in other city bakeries.

Looking at the prices here, I realised that GNB has a slight mark up on each item, which I wouldn't mind if it meant avoiding the drive from this side of town to Sarita Vihar. But Red Moon Cafe does offer delivery service to most parts of the city on different days of the week, provided you bill at least 400/-

The husband loves their mutli grain bread (60Rs) loaf. They will slice it for you to your desired thickness for 5rs extra. I highly recommend that as the bread is so soft, it crumbles when you try to slice it at home. Regular brown bread is 45Rs. They have a host of flavored Bagels, pitas, buns and breads.

I picked up a chicken curry pocket(50Rs) and a Chicken Pot pie(50Rs). Loved the pocket, its a complete tea time snack for one, the pot pie had a little too much potato for me, or maybe it was just the piece that I picked up.

The rum balls(20Rs) are a mouthful of sin! Highly highly recommended. I've already mentioned that I'm a huge fan of their walnut brownies(30Rs) which are much darker than any I have eaten before.

The cupcakes are 30Rs, I found the butter icing a bit too much for me, but my cat loved it :) and I'm sure most kids would too. Its just a little too much sugar for me on top of a cupcake, but that's just me.

Their muffins are 30Rs and the carrot bran is supposed to be a healthy one. The piece I bought, has been reserved for breakfast in the morning.

Lots of cookies in the 100-150rs range for a dozen. I have loved the chocolate chunk and the chocolate gingerbread.

I have a few other goodies that I picked up today, that I have had to force myself to stay away from. The temptation is quite over powering though.

They also have birthday cakes, cheesecakes and others from 6" to 14" (600gms - 4kg) which you can order ahead.

I'm definitely going to be ordering from them pretty often. They also deliver upto Gurgaon.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Penguin Spring Fever - Trickster City

Today was a fitting finale to the Penguin Spring Fever celebrations. This evenings program encapsulated everything that the festival stood for. The theme for this finale was  - Discover the uniqueness of Delhi
To start off the evening, was the recent release "Trickster City". Shveta Sarda is the translator of this unique anthology whose stories have been written by a group of 20 somethings who live in neighbourhoods like LNJP colony, Dakshinapuri and Sawda-Ghevra in Delhi. What is unique about this collection is that it gives voices to stories which otherwise may have just been statistics in a social workers register. Neelofar, one of the writers and Shveta alternated reading passages from the book in English and Hindi and had the audience spellbound. I've read some of the stories from the book (they are short stories) and will review it when I'm done. But this is definitely a must-read.

Sam Miller then read an excerpt from his last years release "Delhi: Adventures in a Megacity". Sam Miller was a BBC correspondent in Delhi in the early 1990's. He has returned and lived in Delhi since 2002. His book is more about Delhi as seen through his eyes while he walked about the city.

William Dalrymple, then read from his novels set in Delhi. "City of Djinns" and "The Last Mughal" effectively tying up the Delhi of Millers book to the Delhi portrayed in Mahmood Farooqui's upcoming book. What can I say about him? He is an author who always has his audience eating out of the palm of his hand!


The last reading for the day was by Mahmood Farooqui and Danish Husain from Mahmoood's yet to be released "Besieged: Voices from Delhi 1857" It was a pleasure to see the two of them in action again. Its been almost 4 years since I last saw them perform in Bombay. While todays reading was not half as flamboyant, (You have to try and watch a Dastangoi performance at least once in your lifetime, they are next performing in Pune on April 12th) it was very illuminating. Mahmood has been researching papers at the National Archives and his book attempts to explain 1857 through the voices of the common man rather than the parroted lines in History text books. The book is a collection of translations of letters of various people during the time of the uprising and seige on Delhi. There are letters from butchers, hawaldars, thanedars and the like. We could have listened to the 2 of them all night.
The audience who had foregone the IPL, Liverpool-ManU & Navroze celebrations, to be here, was completely spell bound.
A beautiful end to the evening was the 2 hour Qawwali performance by the Nizami Brothers. Ghulam Sabir and Ghulam Waris. They performed the traditional qawwals and sang about national unity and integration among other traditional themes.

Listening to a performance like this can truly put you into a spiritual trance if you stop trying to control your mind, close your eyes and just go with the flow. the little kids who are training to be qawwalis gave us a short performance and there was so much potential there. The eldest of the 3 boys already has remarkable control over his voice for his age and they are sure to take this performance art further.

Wonderful evening, beautiful memories. Waiting for the next literature festival now.
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