Author Archives: Cutting Loose

Muziris, is it?

The Sea of Pain is Raul Zurita’s poignant ode to Galip Kurdi. The five year old who drowned alongside his mother and younger brother Alan–immortalised by a heart-rending image evocative of the Syrian refugee crisis–with nary a mention. Not even a fleeting one.  The Chilean poet’s installation at Aspinwall House, for the ongoing Kochi Muziris Biennale, invites visitors to wade through knee-deep water in a cavernous warehouse to read, literally, the writing on the wall.

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Where It Oil Began

“Dig, boy, dig!” urged 19th century prospectors, it is said, on getting whiff of what lay beneath. Whether Digboi came by its moniker as a result of wordplay, as is popularly believed, has passed into the realm of amused conjecture. Historians will have you know that Di is a prefix meaning stream in Singpho, and the prevailing reference–Diboi Nallah, minus the ’g’–may have somewhat encouraged it. What wasn’t mere inference though were the tell-tale signs of crude oil reported from the rainforest of Upper Assam as early as 1825. A Lt R Wilcox of the 46th Regiment Native Infantry, while on a survey of the Namchik River (roughly 40kms east of Digboi) had observed ‘great bubbles of gas and green petroleum’ rising to the surface at Supkhong. And that ‘the jungles are full of an odour of petroleum’. Tea-explorer Charles Alexander Bruce also spotted ‘many oil seepages upstream of Makum’ in 1828.

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Performing Heritage. No guide-speak, this.

Book Cover - PHThough long in the know of her scholarship, I was served an opportunity to participate in a heritage walk led by academician, performing artist, and cultural activist Dr Navina Jafa only last year. She had graciously acquiesced to curate a Ramazan Walk exclusively for members of the Travel Correspondents & Bloggers Group, which proved to be one of exceptional strolls undertaken through Shajahanabad in recent memory. It coincided with the roza iftar being observed in the expansive courtyard of the old city’s most evocative landmark, Jama Masjid, silhouetted against a persimmon sky.  Milling families hungrily awaited the muezzin’s sunset call to break their fast with the customary dates, bestowing upon its colossal proportions an all-encompassing vivacity hitherto un-experienced.  The trademark megaphone slung across her shoulder notwithstanding, only one feature surpassed our generally atmospheric and lively surrounds and that was Navina’s animated passion for parampara–her definition of choice for all manner of heritage.

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Feasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India

book-coverFeasts and Fasts – A History of Food in India is Chicago-based food historian Colleen Taylor Sen’s most recent culinary outing. An ambitious effort at exploring the history of Indian gastronomy, the fascinating journey of which, this richly illustrated single volume traces from the Indus Valley Civilization to its present incarnation. It is served as a detailed introduction to the dietary evolution of a diverse sub continental people since prehistoric times, with generous dollops of myriad influences that have accorded it the status of a much-preferred world cuisine today. The author peels away, chapter by chapter, how faith, climate, geography, foreign rule, among others, shaped our culinary heritage and modern day food habits.

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The road to Narayan (aka god)…

img_20161027_141638_hdr…is never easy, I’m told, by many a seeker. Less so to the one I sought, as I discovered for myself only ten days ago. A tad off-piste for most visitors to Himachal Pradesh, Narayan Devta Temple–ancient shrine in honour of the local deity–is located in the Nawar valley of Rohru district.  I had made the acquaintance of this little-known nugget through a photograph and was raring for a closer encounter.  The opportunity presented itself soon enough during my stay at a farm near Kotkhai.

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Tirthan Anglers’ Retreat

A sorority-of-sorts reunion long in the making finally fructified this summer past. Siblings and school buddies decided to get away from it all for some rejuvenation. Given the relentless May swelter our respective cities of residence experience, an escape to Himalayan havens was a unanimous no-brainer. Besides, I was returning after a scorch proper from Ujjain where I had been parked for two weeks acquainting with the Simhastha Kumbh.

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Reflections of Aina Mahal, Bhuj

img_7697For a man of his artistic genius and versatility to nearly fade from the narrative within three centuries of his existence is a tad baffling. But for one-line references and the odd paragraph in numerable writings, travel guides, and coffee table books themed around Kutch arts and crafts, little is known of Ram Singh Malam, an incredibly multi-faceted craftsman, today. Were it not for the Aina Mahal (Palace of Mirrors), his greatly diminished but still abiding pièce de résistance, Malam could well have been an easily missed footnote in the history of the arts.

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Gone Fishing, Tirthan

IMG_9626Prejudice alert. Any place I can wake up to a dog curled up close at hand has an everlasting hold over my heart.  I make no bones about it. Nor am I averse to gushing about it. And should that place be set in one of the prettiest valleys of Himachal Pradesh, well then I’m a complete and unabashed goner.

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Times Food Guide 2016 – Chandigarh

DSC_8123It’s out. Actually it’s been out for nearly a month, just didn’t get around to gloating about it. The launch of the Times Food Guide for Chandigarh (Mohali & Panchkula included as separate sections) took place at The Lalit on 29th March at the high decibel Times Food & Nightlife Awards ceremony.

It was released by one of the finest Sufi voices from Punjab – Hans Raj Hans. Perhaps not the last word on fusilli, but he sure knows a thing or two about that ‘silli silli…hawa’! The glittering evening also saw a number of other celebrities give away well-deserved awards to those that made the Winners’ list.

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Pssst…Did I mention I authored it?

Get your copy here.

NEW YORK INDIAN FILM FESTIVAL (NYIFF 2016)

infinity-sThis post goes out especially for followers in the United States of America. Some of whom have, over the past few years, unfailingly pinged Cutting Loose for fashioning their travels around India. In turn, nothing has given me greater pleasure than showcasing to them an India beyond the obvious. If testimonials are to be believed, they’re clearly not missing the tried-and-tested.

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