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28 February 2007

Is boredom the highest mental state?

DRIVING BACK home this afternoon, I was stuck in downtown traffic. I had just endured a grueling day at the Foreigners Regional Registration Office, and as I thought of the long, boring drive ahead, my brains began to sink.

That was when I decided to bewitch ten of my most charming friends with a bewildering text message.

The words came in random to my rapidly-sinking mind.

“Am looking for badumdum electrifiers. Do u know wer 2 buy them here?”

I had no idea what on earth “badumdum electrifiers” were, but they did sound like my state of mind this afternoon. Or at least what my mind needed, to get out of its state. And so the message went to the friends. Their replies demonstrated their healthy sense of humor and good will, and made the long drive home a pleasure trip. They also saved my brains from sinking completely.

#1: “Sorry. No idea.”
Me: (silence)

#2: “No idea.”
Me: (silence)

#3: “No, but you should try Lohar Chawl in town.”
Me: “Once I get them, I shall share with u.”

#4: “Never head of that. U have weird requests.”
Me: “Oh. Once I get them, I shall share with u.”

#5: “What?”
Me: “Am planning Thai dinner. Will let u know.”
#5: “So what did that mean?”
Me: “Once I get them, I shall share with u.”

#6: “I think u've lost it.”
Me: “I shall use the badumdum electrifiers on u.”

#7: “Saw them being hawkd on Linkng Road in Khar. R u well?”
Me: “Am electrified.”

#8: “Wer r u?”
Me: “Am electrified.”
#8: “No, I think ur bored.”


The source of all good

The source of all good

Festival of Ayyám-i-Há

Happy Ayyám-i-Há! Source: Bill Anderson

Bahá’í children and women singing and dancing in Katumba, Rwanda, 2000. Image source:

BAHÁ’ÍS AROUND the world are now celebrating the cheerful festival of Ayyám-i-Há, a 4-day (5 in leap year) preparation for the annual Fast. Every year, it begins at sunset of 25 February and ends at sunset on 1 March as a time for good will and charity amongst the Bahá'ís, their friends, and families. It is the Bahá'í gift-giving season, just as Christmas is the Christian gift-giving season, but without the mad commercial rush for shopping.

The Bahá'í calendar of 19 months of 19 days needs 4 extra days (5 in leap years) to equal a solar year of 265 days. In revealing this calendar, the Báb, Forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, the Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, did not say the exact placement of those extra days. Bahá’u’lláh specified them as intercalary days, or days that do not belong to any month. These are Ayyám-i-Há.

Bahá’u’lláh has said of Ayyám-i-Há:

Let the days in excess of the months be placed before the month of fasting. We have ordained that these, amid all days and nights, shall be the manifestations of the letter Há, and thus they have not been bounded by the limits of the year and its months. It behoveth the people of Bahá, throughout these days, to provide good cheer for themselves, their kindred and, beyond them, the poor and needy, and with joy and exultation to hail and glorify their Lord, to sing His praise and magnify His Name, and when they end—these days of giving that precede the season of restraint—let them enter upon the Fast.

24 February 2007

SIGHTED SITE : Tribal Route, Mumbai

Nepalese mask from Tribal RouteNESTLED AMONGST cottages in a quiet seaside village in suburban Mumbai is a pleasant surprise: a fabulous arts and crafts store called Tribal Route. It sells Indian stuff seldom found in the big sprawling concrete jungle of Mumbai (like contemporary terracotta sculptures that stand so precariously and huge incense sticks in such scents as coconut, strawberry, and ylang-ylang). I got a roughly finished Nepalese mask depicting some royal personage; it now sits prettily on my living room shelf with a Tibetan mask of a lama (Buddhist priest) that I found elsewhere.

Finding the shop is tough: the village (called Aram Nagar) is tucked away from the main road along the Arabian coastline, and the cottages are not numbered in sequence. This is what the owners, Nihar Mehta and Mamta Mamta, have to say about the village:

Aram Nagar II, which in the mid 1930s, was INS Ghansoli, or “camp” as it is popularly called, which served as army barracks during the British rule. Around 1947, it got converted into refugee camps, during the Partition, in the heart of Versova (a quiet suburb of Bombay, which has a history that goes back to the Portuguese rule in the 16th century!)

Meandering lanes, fruit and palm trees, mud roads, two famous temples (the Amba Mata Mandir and the Ganpati Mandir), two huge playgrounds, 400 cottages, the Arabian Sea across the main J.P. Road, and the famous Vesave fishing village down the road, where the inhabitants can tell tales of the freedom wars between the British and the Marathas. This is what makes Aram Nagar 2 what it is, special, an experience, probably the only last few acres of land untouched by land poachers! (Well maybe the heritage society would like to step in, and help conserve this.)

Such effusive history is the perfect backdrop for this hard-to-locate store (actually two shops, one selling furnishings, the other selling bric-a-brac). It is fun to shop: compact, colorful, and cheery. The collections are one-of-a-kind, so the merchandise mix keeps evolving. I had a glimpse of the huge storage area; there seems so much more to be displayed, and that is reason enough to check the store every so often.

The store is an obvious labor of love by Nihar (an interior designer from Mumbai) and Mamta (a fashion designer from Delhi). Dotting the walls, for example, are miniature masks that belong to Nihar's private collection. During my visit, I had chai (tea) and chat with them over things creative at the upper-storey majlis (terrace) shaded by an ancient mango tree (I think it's a mango tree). This weekend, they plan to have a wine-tasting affair with customers and colleagues to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi.

Tribal Route is one great way to explore the suburbs of Mumbai and enjoy the diversity of crafts in this country.

Tribal Route
18 & 2 Aram Nagar 2, J.P. Road, Versova, Andheri (W)
Mumbai 400 061, India
Telephone +91 9324 278 505

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06 February 2007

We won!

Do Your Denim!

The winning piece, designed by Neha Suchak.

MY COLLEAGUES and I spent Friday evening in New Delhi in the company of the high and mighty of India's visual merchandising and retail design industries. It was POP Asia's first VM&RD Retail Design Awards night, and we took home two awards!

Our first award of the night was for the best hypermarket. The team cheered when HyperCity was announced as nominee and then again as winner. I knew we would win: HyperCity created history in India as its first international and real hypermarket. The citation was worth it and delightful.

As the nominees for the best window display flashed on screen, it thrilled me to see how smaller retailers could execute such remarkable windows. All of them were winning pieces. When our “Do Your Denim” window display (set up last June) was selected as the year's best, the team went on screaming mode. Neha, who designed the winning theme, and I went up on stage to collect the award—a well deserved one, I think, and a strangely designed one, I think. It looked like a skyscraper about to melt under the harsh sun. I told the audience that it was “a fantastic encouragement to the industry” (a subtle reference to the fact that my company leads the industry), and pointed to the screaming team at the back of the room.

The melting building will be displayed in our office to join countless other awards, but this one stands out: it is the first ever that the company has collected for visual merchandising!

Two fantastic awards, a fun raucous team, and heavenly tikkas and kebabs made for a lovely evening in New Delhi.