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Posts Tagged ‘india’


Art: Sun and Moon
A beautiful book reviewed at Brainpickings and featuring the work of ten of India’s indigenous artists.

Maria Popova, my go-to source for children’s book suggestions, tweeted about the book Sun and Moon in August, around the time of the eclipse.

“In Sun and Moon,” she writes, “ten Indian folk and tribal artists bring to life the solar and lunar myths of their indigenous traditions in stunningly illustrated stories reflecting on the universal themes of life, love, time, harmony, and our eternal search for a completeness of being.

“This uncommon hand-bound treasure of a book, silkscreened on handmade paper with traditional Indian dyes, comes from South Indian independent publisher Tara Books, who for the past decades have been giving voice to marginalized art and literature through a commune of artists, writers, and designers collaborating on books handcrafted by local artisans in a fair-trade workshop in Chennai …

“Among the indigenous traditions represented in the book are Gondi tribal art by Bhajju Shyam (of London Jungle Book fame), Durga Bai (featured in The Night Life of Trees), and Ramsingh Urveti (of I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail); Madhubani folk art by Rhambros Jha (of Waterlife); and Meena tribal art by Sunita (of Gobble You Up).”

Popova links to WorldCat, a library system, for the book’s publishing details and this description: “Part of everyday life, yet rich in symbolic meaning, renderings of the sun and the moon are present in all folk and tribal art traditions of India. Agrarian societies have always kept track of time by referring to markers in the seasonal variations of the sun, moon and planets. They have also woven wonderful stories and myths around them. Here, for the first time, is a collection of unusual stories and exquisite art from some of the finest living artists, on this most universal of themes.”

Be sure to read the Brainpickings post, here, for more art, more of Popova’s insights, and her ever thoughtful suggestions for related reading.

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Photo: Rajanish Kakade/AP
Amiruddin Shah, the son of a welder from a Mumbai slum, won a spot at the American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School in New York.

Even though I know the culture shock can’t be easy for poor but talented kids given opportunities that lift them from slums, I do enjoy these hopeful stories.

Manish Mehta writes for the Associated Press, “The son of a welder from [Mumbai’s] slums had a dream few Indians dared to dream — to dance with the New York City Ballet.

“In a few months, that dream may be a little bit closer as 15-year-old Amiruddin Shah begins four years of training at the prestigious American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. …

“Shah began studying ballet less than three years ago when Israeli-American instructor Yehuda Maor was invited by the Danceworx Academy to teach in India — a country with no special ballet academies.

“Maor happened to catch Shah doing cartwheels and backflips as part of the Danceworx jazz and contemporary dance program for underprivileged students.

“ ‘I had no idea about ballet,’ Shah recalled. He had been dancing freestyle whenever he got the chance — sometimes he was invited to weddings to perform, sometimes he just goofed around with friends. …

“Within 2 ½ years, Shah had nailed his pointe, pirouette and arabesque, ‘which is unheard of,’ Maor said. …

“Maor bought Shah ballet shoes and dance clothes and helped him and another young dancer, 21-year-old Manish Chauhan, win scholarships in June to New York’s Joffrey Ballet School. But they could not secure U.S. visas in time. …

“Now, Shah is trying to raise funds for four years of travel and tuition with the American Ballet Theatre in New York. They have enough for his first year, beginning in August, but have set up a website to accept donations for three more years in the U.S. …

“ ‘I am so excited, but slightly scared, too,’ said Shah, who speaks basic English but used Hindi in an interview with The Associated Press. ‘How would I interact with people? New York is very crowded.’

“One day, he hopes to be a principal dancer in the New York Ballet. And eventually, he said, ‘I want to teach other children who cannot afford to pay for dance.’ ” More here.

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The clouds on Wednesday were amazing here, and to share my photos of them, I first tried to find a cloud poem on Google.  But after reading several that weren’t quite right, I decided to change tack and see what I could learn about languages with numerous names for clouds.

That’s how I came across photographer and journalist Arati Kumar-Rao, who writes at Peepli about clouds in an Indian desert, where clouds are few and far between.

“There was excitement in the air. The horizon was flashing an intermittent neon in the darkness, silhouetting ghostly clouds.

“What are those clouds called? I asked. Chhattar Singh gazed into the distance, as if mining a lost memory. The words began to trickle — hesitant at first, then faster, crowding one another in his excitement. Those were kanThi, he said. And if they consolidate and promise rain, their name will change to ghaTaaTope. If the clouds become very dense, they’ll be called kaLaan.

“That night, the kanThi did not build up. It did not rain.

“Life stirred awake next morning under a pretty-patterned sky — tufts of white trailing in arcs and lines, horizon to blue horizon.

“We sat sipping chai and watching a distant wind ripple through a feathery, fruit-laden khejri. ‘Those clouds won’t rain either,’ I offered.

“ ‘Teetar pankhi’ Chhattar Singh replied. They had a word for this cloud pattern too – a perfect analogy that likened it to the pattern on the wings of a partridge.

“They say eskimos have 40 names for snow. I get that — they are surrounded by snow all year. The people of the Thar have just forty cloudy days in a year — and yet they have as many names for clouds! …

“The area I have been visiting over the past three years, the deep western part of the Thar desert, lies in Jaisalmer district. It is bounded on the north and west by Pakistan, in the east by Jodhpur district, in the south by Barmer district, and in the northeast by Bikaner district.

“The rainfall here is a meager 100-150mm, about a tenth of the national average and a pitiful 2 per cent of the rainfall Kerala and some other of the wettest areas in India get. For the people of the Thar, sighting clouds and rain are events. Memorable. Priceless. Because these moments hold the key to their very existence.” Read Kumar-Rao’s report here. I think you will like how respectful she is of Singh, controlling her instinct to ask a million questions.

My Massachusetts scenes don’t look much like the Thar desert, I know, but maybe clouds are similar everywhere.

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Photo: Chandana Banerjee
Dr. Medha Tadpatrikar found a nontoxic way to burn plastic and produce a cheap fuel for India.

I never use plastic in the oven or the microwave because I know that as plastic heats and disintegrates, it lets off toxic fumes.

So I was a little surprised — but also relieved — to learn that a new process burns plastic waste to generate energy and doesn’t expose anyone to danger.

For the Christian Science Monitor, Chandana Banerjee reports, “In 60 cities in India, 16,876 tons of plastic waste are generated each day, according to data from the country’s Central Pollution Control Board. Multiply that by 365, and you have more than 6 million tons of plastic that end up in landfills a year. …

“Dr. [Medha] Tadpatrikar resolved to find a way to make plastic waste useful. She and Shirish Phadtare started experimenting in Tadpatrikar’s kitchen, trying to ‘cook’ plastic in a pressure cooker to create a practical fuel. ‘Plastic is made of crude oil, and we wanted to reverse the process to get usable oil,’ Tadpatrikar explains.

“After lots of kitchen R&D, some trial and error, and help from engineer friends, this experimenting duo has come up with an operation in the Pune, India, area that benefits the environment in several ways. They are indeed producing fuel, using a process that doesn’t emit toxic gases. …

“ ‘We blew up quite a few cookers in the process,’ says Tadpatrikar, smiling. Later that year, they cofounded Rudra Environmental Solution. …

“ ‘Our two new machines, one that we launched in 2013 and the other in 2015, use up every bit of the byproducts, including the gases,’ says Tadpatrikar, noting that even the leftover sludge can be mixed with bitumen to create roads. …

“The fuel churned out by the two machines is carefully collected in bottles, and it’s sold to people in 122 villages around Pune at a subsidized rate of 38 rupees (53 cents) per liter. It’s a boon for villagers like Nanda Shinde, who can’t afford to buy any other fuel. …

“ ‘In the monsoons, when the wood is soggy, I’d have to burn plastic bags to cook a meal on,’ explains Shinde, who toils in the fields, attends to household chores, and looks after her family of six from the first light of dawn until the last of the evening.

” ‘Now I give my waste plastic to Rudra, and I am doing this so my children will have a cleaner world to live in,” adds Shinde.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here.

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Sari weaving at Kanchipuram — a city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

One Instagram account I follow is The_Deepaks, which today posted a video about silk weaving that fascinated me. Instagram doesn’t make it easy to share posts, so I hunted around YouTube until I found another video on silk weaving.

The text accompanying the YouTube video is not in perfect English but is worth reprinting. “The saree is an unstitched garment worn by the women India, that reflects the vast aesthetics to suit a women’s need for adornment and cultural identity. It is a traditional wear across India of different styles depending on the region and occasion. Silk sarees (Pattu sarees) are renowned for their intricate work and adds value through Zari work which is considered to be special.

“These are characterized by huge contrast border offers an ethnic look along with appealing color combination, made through the inclusion of checks of varied colors and geometric patterns. Fine stripes as well as checks in both horizontal and vertical manner add to the relish of the fabric. Traditional motifs found are peacock and parrot with colors in mustard, brick red and black.”

Other videos I found bemoaned the dying art of silk weaving. It’s really unfortunate that the sari weavers, inevitably competing with machines, can no longer make a living doing the work by hand.

I wonder if some of them could earn a living teaching Westerners who appreciate handcrafts. I could imagine tour buses full of people coming for courses by skilled craftsmen and craftswomen.

More at Wikipedia, here.

Video: Dsource Ekalpa India

 

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A “funky, eco-friendly” shop in Providence, Small Point Café, serves wooden cutlery that can be recycled. The only problem is that if you do takeout and want to use the recycling bin at work, wood is not accepted.

Here’s an idea that could solve the problem of takeout-cutlery waste once and for all: utensils you can eat.

Brittany Levine Beckman writes at Mashable, “Tired of seeing mountains of plastic cutlery polluting India’s landfills, Narayana Peesapaty had an idea: What if you could eat your disposable spoon rather than toss it?

“Peesapaty, a researcher and agriculture consultant from Hyderabad, India, developed an edible spoon made of millet, rice and wheat flours, in 2010. Now, after selling 1.5 million spoons for his company Bakeys, he wants to reach even more eaters. Peesapaty knows that means he has to cut the cost of his products to compete with cheaper plastic counterparts. …

“Bakeys plans to use its successful Kickstarter campaign to improve production and expand the product line. Its ‘edible lunch spoon,’ which can last 20 minutes in hot liquid, comes in a variety of flavors: sugar, ginger-cinnamon, ginger-garlic, cumin, celery, black pepper, mint-ginger and carrot-beetroot. The spoons have a shelf life of two to three years.

” ‘You can eat it up. If you don’t want to eat it, you can throw it. It decomposes within four to five days,’ Peesapaty said in a promotional video that has been shared millions of times since posting on March 16. …

” ‘Plastic is very cheap, true. But I can make it as cheap,’ Peesapaty remarks confidently. ‘I can with volumes, and once I get the volumes, I [can go to] the farmers directly and start procuring raw material directly from the farmers, in which case my spoons will be as cheap as the plastic spoons.’ ”

More. Learn how to get a supply of your own.

Photo: Mashable
Edible cutlery is already reducing plastic waste and benefiting the environment.

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The People Making a Difference series of the Christian Science Monitor is a reliable source of worthy stories that don’t make the US headlines. I thought this one — about women in Nepal holding things together as their husbands pursue jobs in India — was worth sharing.

Zoe Tabary, of the Thomson Reuters Foundation writes, “Ratna Chaudhary delicately lifts the hem of her pink and green dress with one hand, while using the other to scoop up a batch of cabbages in her garden in the village of Phulbari, a dozen kilometers from the Nepal-India border.

“She calls three women to help, who join the dance-like movement, bending and swaying as they pick up vegetables and lay them in a basket.

” ‘Since my husband works in India now, I’m responsible for harvesting all our crops,’ said Chaudhary, holding two cabbages to her face before throwing the yellower one to the ground.

“Her husband, Chatkauna, is one of at least 2.2 million Nepalis – nearly 10 percent of the population – who work abroad, according to the Nepal Institute of Development Studies.

“For the past three years, Chatkauna has taken on seasonal work for most of the year as a miner in the Indian city of Haldwani. It pays more than the daily jobs he used to do in his hometown, and he returns to Phulbari every four months to see his family and hand over his earnings. …

“The outflow of male workers – in particular from rural areas faced with worsening climate conditions – has major implications for the country’s agricultural sector, believes Madan Pariyar, project director at International Development Enterprises (iDE), a non-profit group that helps poor farmers with work and income opportunities. …

“Chaudhary used to work on a sugarcane farm in India herself. ‘We just couldn’t earn enough in our village,’ she said.

“For the past six months, however, she has cultivated her own patch of land and leases the remainder of it – 1,700 square meters (18,299 square feet) – to other poor, low-caste farmers from the ‘tharu’ ethnic minority group, one of Nepal’s largest.

“In 2015, iDE helped Chaudhary set up a village vegetable co-operative, which she chairs, to boost local farmers’ incomes. The project is part of the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) program, funded by the British government. …

“With iDE’s help, 25 subsistence farmers – 18 women and five men – grow vegetables on 68 square-meter plots of land, which they rent from Chaudhary, paying her in cash or in kind. They bring their spare produce to a collection center, which transports the vegetables and other crops to large markets or sells them to regular buyers.

“The co-operative also gives farmers better access to cheaper seeds, fertilizers and finance such as private investment and micro-credit. While the project is still in its early days, it is already yielding results. ‘Farmers now earn 50 rupees ($0.50) more a day than they did previously,’ said Pariyar.”

More here.

Photo: Zoe Tabary
Women farmers pick vegetable crops in the village of Phulbari, Nepal, May 18, 2016.

 

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