Saturday, March 23, 2013
The Census of India’s data on slums across states has recently been released, containing data about numbers, population, amenities, building materials, and so on. Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra have the highest number of total slum households. In fact, the top seven states taken together contain about 76% of the country's slum households. Of course, factoring in the size of these states results in some slightly new results - dividing the total number of slum households by the sq km area of these states throws up these states with high slum population densities: And that's not including UTs like Delhi and Chandigarh, which have astonishingly high ratios: Conditions of slums A fairly high number of slums has been marked 'good', and these ten states do especially well. (Decided not to exclude the "seven sisters" for purposes of this analysis). These states have the smallest percentage of 'good' slums. More to come: looking at comparisons of Karnataka and neighbouring states, and so on, and trying out a map, of course - but tell me what you think.
Wednesday, November 21, 2012
The Monsoon Mela held recently in the city was a celebration of the forest. The fair, organised by the collective Vanastree (which literally translates to “forest woman”), showcased seeds, preserves and snacks from the hilly Malnad region of Karnataka. From a large bottle gourd on display to the liquid jaggery for sale, everything in the fair is grown organically by small-scale forest farmers in Sirsi, said Manorama, a farmer from the area.
A variety of seeds were up for grabs: here, the familiar rajma and amaranth sat alongside the more exotic butterfly pea or angikase bean.
Lalita Manjunath, who has worked with Vanastree for the past year, said the fair displayed the collective’s commitment to the practice of seed saving.
Seed saving refers to the traditional practice of setting aside and reusing a few seeds from the season’s produce, as opposed to purchasing commercial hybrid seeds. The seeds are also open-pollinated, she explained. “The pollination is done by local bees and flowers. There is very little human interference with nature. And everything is natural in taste, value, and ecology, so it is not harming the soil either,” she said. “And they are home gardens, not commercially grown”.
But Manjunath acknowledged that going organic may not be easy. “On a large scale, perhaps not,” she said. “What we’re trying to do is to show people that you can do this at home, and to make a choice and support these practices”. She also acknowledged that in the city, the slightly higher prices of organic food “may mean that only privileged urban classes buy, not necessarily the slum-dweller”.
Besides seeds, on offer were a variety of preserves, including a Malnad citron preserve and a pineapple-ginger jam. An intriguing “cocoa maya” jar promised a hot chocolate “the way it is still enjoyed in parts of Mexico”. Cooked and dried jackfruit seeds (which could be used as dal), dried banana and ginger bites, and papads made from jackfruit were the other culinary curiosities on display.
It wasn’t all virtuously healthful food, either: a snack stall sold banana and jackfruit chips, and sweets made with jaggery and peanuts. A bath/beauty stall showcased hair dyes, made with indigo grown by the collective, as well as a chocolate bath scrub.
Species unique to the Western Ghats, such as special varieties of gooseberry and citron, were available.
A variety of wet sugarcane found in the area was sold as liquid jaggery. Manjunath explained that it was as much about preserving plant species as about environmental concerns.
“With hybridisation, you lose out. (Saving heirloom seeds) is a kind of heritage preservation,” she said. The Malnad Mela is on today from 10.30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Vriksh Organic Store, 88, 3rd Main Road, Vyalikaval (the first right lane on road opposite Vyalikaval police station.
There is very little human interference with nature
Originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-in-school/showcasing-heirloom-fare/article3596329.ece
At a recent poetry reading at Urban Solace, featured poet Satyn Bulchandani read out a haiku, then picked up an unusual prop: a harmonica.
Interspersing his next haiku with the reedy notes of the instrument, the 19-year-old was perfectly at ease fusing an ancient Japanese form of poetry with American blues. And, if the cheers of the audience were any indication, the experiment worked.
Over the evening, Bulchandani’s preoccupation with form manifested itself in a diverse array that included haiku, odes, and another Japanese form, tanka. This, happily, didn’t translate to a borrowed, archaic voice: it was clear he wrote from experience. The opening poem, ‘Ode to the Persistent Pimple’, displayed the comic possibilities of both the form and the writer.
Indeed, Bulchandani does dabble in comedy: he said later that he was a regular at the café’s comedy nights. This side, too, found its way into the evening’s poems. A three-poem series called ‘Comedian versus poet’ had the audience chuckling at the pithy observations on the two archetypal figures.
The writer also showed that he was equally comfortable dealing with less-humorous themes, such as adolescent anger, or the perceived ‘weakness’ of crying. Several of these were almost journal-entry-like in their directness; some images stood out. ‘There are two sides to every stem/each with a world within it’, he writes in one poem, and in another, the ego is personified as ‘a drunken cousin brother/a monument made of fear’.
His experiments and interaction with the audience – at one point, he had the audience stand up and take a pledge against bullying – made it clear that he was comfortable with the poetry reading format. “I love having an audience for my poems,” he said.
The poet’s forte is clearly the haiku; he read aloud nearly 10 poems, with striking, brief images. But he doesn’t shy away from using clichés in his writing: “they’re clichés for a reason,” he said.
Tuesdays with the Bard is on every Tuesday at Urban Solace, 32, Annaswamy Mudaliar Road (opposite Ulsoor Lake, between Tamil Sangam and Foto Flash). Call 99450 22177, 98450 13055.
(Originally appeared at http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/performing-form/article3598654.ece )
For writer Reema Moudgil, who read from her book Perfect 8 recently at Atta Galatta, Partition wasn’t “the end of divisions, it was the beginning”. Moudgil said while the book was set against the backdrop of Partition, the story was relevant because we are “far more fragmented today than we were then”.
Indeed, the ‘8’ in the title was meant to connote infinity and the endlessness of partitions, she said: “Multiple partitions keep on happening across language, caste, gender”.
She said the book also depicted the split within its central character, mirroring the events of Partition. She read from the opening chapter of the book, set in Missamari Cantonment in Assam, where she grew up. A lengthy opening section, rich with imagery, located the novel in army homes – “into the crisp, happy, whitewashed cores of army homes where ovens grew warm”.
These were places “no rain could seep through”. The writer, who also runs a website for freelance writers, explained that her tendency for detailed descriptions was perhaps partly a generational feature.
“Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we experienced things as immediate, tangible, intimate. Today, there are too many distractions – people are cocooned in their virtual world”.
The book is narrated in first person, but Moudgil said it wasn’t autobiographical: “The geography is mine, but the history is not.” She also spoke of the pervasive power of major events such as Partition or the Holocaust, saying that one didn’t have to live through it firsthand – even a memory event sufficed. “For people who have experienced it personally, you are never the same. There is always a ‘before’ and an ‘after’.”
For Moudgil, there’s a sense of relief that the book is written, the story told. “It doesn’t matter if it’s lying in 200 boxes, unsold, the story is out there. I wasn’t carrying it inside me anymore,” she said. This urgency to tell the tale meant that she didn’t struggle with the lack of accountability that comes without a set deadline, she said. “The story is asking to be told. It won’t give you peace. If I hadn’t written it, after two years it’ll come back and say, ‘you didn’t write me’”.
Moudgil was in conversation with journalist Nirmala Ravindran, life coach Sindhu Ramachandran, and Aarti Mohan, editor of website The Alternative.
(originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/memories-of-partition/article3602516.ece )
My first CD review for The Hindu, a review of Linkin Park's Living Things.
(Originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/beat-street-living-things/article3591598.ece)
Warner Bros Records, Audio CD: Rs. 395
Rock-rap band Linkin Park changed musical direction in their last two albums (Minutes to Midnight and A Thousand Suns). These had mellow, brooding tracks, and were almost easy listening compared to the raw sounds and inventive rap-rock of earlier albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora.
Their fifth studio album Living Things tries to blend the two directions, and is off to an uncertain start. Opening tracks ‘Lost in the Echo’ and ‘In My Remains’ highlight Joe Hahn’s scratchy turntables and Mike Shinoda’s rock guitar, but both tracks lack the power – even the confidence – of the band at their best (see: ‘Crawling’, Hybrid Theory).
They’re characterized by easy, unchallenging electronic sounds: depressingly, one chorus has the ring of Sean Kingston’s ‘Somebody call 911’.
The album picks up midway, with a section of songs that roughly alternate in terms of mood. ‘Lies greed misery’ is every bit the angry rant it sounds, with a sound reminiscent of ‘Faint’ from Meteora. But it’s juxtaposed against a curiously hopeful riff, which distracts. ‘Victimized’ has furious rapping by Mike Shinoda, and the Chester Bennington vocals we’ve known and loved.
On the other end of the spectrum, ‘Castles of glass’ suits a moody, mellow evening, as do the lullaby-like notes and piano of ‘Roads untraveled’. ‘I’ll be gone’ is uplifting, but suffers from the too-familiar structure: verse, chorus, bridge, and chorus. ‘Until it breaks’ is a rap, until it’s not: it suddenly takes on a choral, almost nursery rhyme-like section.
This is indeed a mix of sounds, as the band has been apparently intending. The band has toned down both their rock and rap elements, which, done right, could be a successful step towards a mature sound. But the result, in this case, is a bit too unsure of itself.
Lyrically, the album is preoccupied with death and fragility: coffins, remains, glass castles, decay – images along these lines form the bulk of the album. It doesn’t take on the vaguely political overtones that A Thousand Suns did.
Living Things has its moments: for fans of the two recent albums, as well as something for fans of the band’s older sound. The problem might be that these moments may not suffice.
(Originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/beat-street-living-things/article3591598.ece)
Pandit Sreepad Hegde’s vocal performance at the Havyaka Sabha Bhavan in Bangalore recently had audiences chorusing ‘wah’ in delight.
Pandit Sreepad Hegde, who is from Kampli in North Karnataka, first presented raga Gavati. A slow exploration of the raga (bandish: “Ninda Ja”) allowed listeners to grasp its several nuances. Gavati, of the Khamaj thaat, contains familiar phrases that, occasionally in the concert, suggested other ragas: the interplay of komal nishad and rishabh suggested Megh; the evocative dhaivat, on which Pandit Hegde lingered in the opening alaap, was reminiscent of Bageshri. Some in the audience initially tried to guess the raga being sung – it was not announced – but soon surrendered to the complex charm of what they were hearing.
Under Pandit Hegde – who grew up in a Yakshagana family and so had an early entry into music – raga Gavati became a canvas to display the artist’s tightly-controlled mix of technique and imagination. The vocalist was in no hurry: he moved leisurely up the scale, with alaaps that shone for their expressivity, not for being too busy. This was the khayal form at its best: abstract, and imaginative. The faster sections, too, did not see an overdose of speed or flourish: Pandit Hegde presented ethereal taans, sung almost carelessly, but delightful on closer inspection. Pandit Hegde was accompanied ably by the well-known Gurumurthy Vaidya on tabla and Ashwin Walwalkar on harmonium.
The evening, structured around the “parampara” theme, featured short performances by two students before Pandit Sreepad Hegde took the stage. Vishal Hegde, son and student of Pandit Sreepad Hegde, presented raga Puriya Dhanashri.
In “Aaj subah”, the vilambit ektal bandish, the younger Hegde displayed admirable clarity in the lower registers. His ease in traversing a complex scale was evident, but the alaaps perhaps lacked expressivity – fair enough for an upcoming artist, since rasikas often use the alaap as a test to evaluate the artistic maturity of a vocalist. Hegde showed greater sure-footedness in the faster portions of his performance: it was clear his taans were meticulously crafted.
Another student, Radha Desai, presented a full-throated rendition of raga Rageshri.
In “Piya More Nainan Neend Nahi Aaye”, the ektal vilambit bandish, the singer’s voice lent a raw appeal that happily matched the nature of the raga. G.R. Badrinath, front-row attendee at several city concerts, was felicitated by Pandit Parameshwar Hegde.
He noted that Badrinath’s collection of concert recordings was unparalleled. The occasion saw Badrinath hand over a selection of his collection to Pandit Hegde.
(Originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/arts/music/expressive-renditions/article3576969.ece)
Niels Robitzky casually tangles and untangles his knees in a b-boying demonstration while chatting with the 40-odd students behind him on stage. The dancers, who have signed up for his dance workshop at the Indo-German Urban Mela in Bangalore, are a sea of black and red, but, on the day I visit, Robitzky wears a lilac Peanuts tee-shirt that says “Be Cool”.
And he means it. “Even though you’re doing the most dynamic stuff, you have to do it like it’s nothing,” he tells the group, during a rigorous routine of steps. The music that they’re dancing to isn’t hip-hop: it’s funk master James Brown, “and other people inspired by him, like Bootsy Collins,” Robitzky tells me later.
Robitzky has been b-boying since he was 14. “In the nineties he kind of won every competition there was”, reads a line on his website. But it’s clear he’s equally comfortable teaching: the session, which is scheduled to take three hours, spills into an extra half hour, because Robitzky is busy giving individual students pointers.
“It’s a very individualistic dance,” he reasons, later. “Dancers need the feedback. And this is a form of dance where people want to leave their mark,” he notes, crediting this to b-boying’s origin in hip-hop culture and the need to assert oneself.
Robitzky, who is also known as ‘Storm’, says he hasn’t planned the lessons too rigidly ahead of the workshop, choosing instead to respond to the participants. “I adapt my material. There’s some beginner’s stuff, but there’s also something to take home, since some people here have danced before,” he says.
His demonstrations have the city’s dancers break into applause several times, but for all his athleticism, Robitzky brings a decidedly sober approach to the dance.
B-boying may be a street dance with origins in urban America; for Robitzky, it’s “a new form of classical dance”, because of its focus on technique and regular practice. “And it has always been international,” he asserts. “It came from an urban world. So anywhere there is an urban setting, b-boying will fit in. It is possible to adapt it with the local flavour,” he says.
Robitzky is also relishing the prospect of an upcoming research project, on ‘Performativity in Urban Space’, in which he hopes to document the rise of urban dance forms. “It’s important to document these things, because so much of it is just oral history,” he says.
(Originally appeared here: http://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/metroplus/the-new-face-of-urban-dance/article3581341.ece )