Saturday, December 13, 2014

Walk the Talk with Jabber Walk

Exercise has always meant dance to me so it has always been puzzling when people said they were too bored to exercise. Equally puzzled is my fitness freak husband who loves his runs more than he loves me. I have made peace with it since its the least of the evils out there. I'm ok as long as I don’t come second to a phone or an Ipad. 

As important as it is to keep our Body Mass Index in check, its essential that we enjoy the experience of leading a healthy lifestyle. Movies, magazines, social media and every other thing around us contribute to making us believe that being slim = being healthy. 

“Get up! Lose that belly!!” Look fabulous after you have starved yourself to death. 

Almost every weight loss/ healthy living program shares the same annoying condescending tone. Why would anyone ever want to 'fix' themselves after being shamed into it? 

Imagine there was a huge ad for a gym which said work out for an hour a day and enjoy a big juicy burger guilt free!!

Gyms around the world get their highest enrollments and client flow in the month of Jan and it starts to drop mid way through the year. So its a given that over time, exercise turns into a mundane, boring activity. 

So to break the routine, once a week my husband and I would go on a long chat catch up and soak in a little bit of the outdoors. It worked for both of us coz I got to talk to him without interruption and he couldn't run away. He loved it coz he could do the 2 things he loved simultaneously....walk and listen to my beautiful voice *flattered blinks*

We gradually began exploring new walking tracks around the city and introduced the idea to a couple of our friends. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and we continued adding new people to the group. We strapped on our fit-bits, fuel bands, jawbones etc and tallied our stats after each walk.  

 Now it was time to brand ourselves and organize the idea a little better. We were clear that we wanted the concept to remain casual where weight loss was never a concern. Make your fitness routine fun and you will realize that the advantages you reap are twofold. So keeping it cool and casual we decided to name it 'Jabber Walk’ (Get it? Jabber away as you Walk)

Our 1st real Jabber Walk with a group was in March last year and since we've done 25 walks around the city. On an average we have about 12 enthusiastic Jabber Walkers every week. We managed to  gather some impressive statistics last year with a completion of 144 kms in 32hrs burning a collective 6,741 Calories!!

So while we chat our way to good health there are more perks to Jabber Walking. A real experience of this beautiful city.  We have covered 12 different routes in different parts of Muscat. We've mixed it up between hilltop treks, beach walks and garden walks. My personal favorites are the PDO walk and the walking track by the Seeb exhibition center.  

My resolution for 2015 is to find balance in everything I do. To start with, I will eat a big frosted cupcake when my heart wants it and Jabber Walk when my body needs it.

Do let me know if you are interested in being a part of the Jabber Walk clan :)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Rape Minister

Rape: To force (another person) to have sexual intercourse with him without their consent and against their will, esp. by the threat or use of violence against them: the woman was raped at knifepoint.

The 2014 Indian election was different in more ways than one. Never before have so many people stepped out of their homes to cast their vote. Never before have the youth been so concerned about the elected party. This was the 1st time the Indian media covered the elections like a football game, screaming at every foul and celebrating at every tiny victory. 

This election made us as citizens feel like someone’s listening. 1.2 billion people in our country have 1.2 billion demands. Me, as an Indian girl in her late twenties have one demand. I demand an India where my mother does not have to pray that I come home alive after dark. I demand an India where rape is something we only hear and read about in books and not in 10 newspaper articles everyday. 

There is more than just a little evidence to put forward the fact that rape in India is no longer a problem, it is a crisis. New brutal methods of rape fight for their spot on the newspaper. Victims of rape wore anything from burkhas to skirts and were aged anywhere between a few moths to their late 70s. 

Over dinner with my dad, he came up with a concept of a 'Rape Minister'. It sounded bizarre at first but the more I thought of it, the more it made sense. The heinous crime has tarnished the image of our country. The least our government can do is make a strong statement by appointing a minister to only deal with rape cases. His 5 year plan will include pulling out past rape cases and pushing them through a fast track court. 

In 1996 a law student was raped and murdered by her stalker in Delhi. Even more horrific than the crime was the fact her case was in court for 10 long years. During this period, the accused got married and had a baby while the parents of the victim dragged themselves to court for every hearing. 

How much more flawed does our system have to be before we take a step forward. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) laws are reviewed and rewritten every few years in America. Until 2012 India didn't have a law against CSA. 

The punishments for burglary is 7 years and the punishment for raping a minor is anywhere between 7-10 years. I draw this comparison only to compare the trauma and pain of the victims in both these cases. A rape victim loses a part of her soul, dignity, confidence and existence after that one incident. 

So what would the rape minister do?
  • He would put forward a 5 year plan where they would set up Rape cells all over the country. 
  • Appoint doctors, lawyers and psychiatrists in every cell.   
  • Set up therapy and support centers for rape victims all over India. 
  • Set up separate courts where rape cases can be tried. 
  • Provide hospital the required tools for after rape medical exams
  • Publish newspaper articles and newsletter with statistics and number of rapists held. 
  • Review the laws and come up with new laws 

Make a statement louder than the one made by the rapists in Muzaffarnagar, who thought it was only fair to hang up the bodies of the 2 victims to show the world how proud they are of their act. 

It’s been one year since the rape of a photojournalist in Mumbai. Two minors accused in this case, are currently being tried by the Juvenile Justice Board separately from the other 3 accused. If convicted, the maximum punishment the minors can face under Indian law is three years imprisonment, which includes time in custody.

Every time I read about a rape case, a part of me dies. It reminds me of the barbarism that exists amongst us. I wish and pray for a happier and healthier society where I don't have to watch over my shoulder every time I step out of my house. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

For the Love of Makeup!!

If I were to blog about everything I love, it would be totally unfair to leave out my most frequently exhibited form of art, MAKEUP!!

My favorite aspect of going out, shopping, experimenting and reviewing is makeup. I love blending colours and looks together. Colours and tones can instantly fix any kind of mood swing. I absolutely believe that there is nothing that a perfectly winged eyeliner and a bright coloured lipstick can't fix.

Since i'm not a great artist on paper or canvas, my face has always been my experimental space.

But today i'm going to blog about stage makeup. Its obviously completely different from the regular everyday makeup, but it brings about an equal amount of satisfaction.

Makeup and prep for stage is a long and precise process. It takes hours to build on the layers of makeup that will brighten your face and keep it that way throughout a very demanding stage performance. The top layer of stage makeup usually melts away with the focus of harsh lights on the dancer's face. Hence its essential for stage makeup to be much thicker and longer lasting than regular makeup.

A lot of artists completely mask their natural features and draw enhanced and exaggerated features for stage. Its always hilarious to see people's reactions when they come to see me backstage.

Most indian classical dance forms use no props or sets on stage. So most of the expression and communication is done through the face and particularly, through the eyes. Exaggerated eyes are drawn so that the viewer in the last row of an auditorium to be able to connect with the dancer on stage.

For most of my time as a dancer, I'v had other people do my makeup for me. Initially it was my mom's best friend who spent hours dressing me up and then its been different makeup artists working on me.

While thats been fun, I'm now trying to master the art of stage makeup myself. So here's a quick look at some of my makeup trials. :)

STATUTORY WARNING: The makeup looks are not for the faint hearted and were intended for stage.

Monday, May 19, 2014

A Blend of Reality and Fantasy

A classroom full of Odissi dancers. Each one experienced and determined to make the best of the week long dance workshop at NCPA (National Center for Performing Arts, Mumbai). I was late and so I dropped my bag and quickly joined everyone trying to keep up with their speed and vigor. Right in the front of the class I saw her, clapping, narrating the taal and checking each of our movements. 

Awe-inspiring Sujata Mohapatra
She had big eyes that looked straight into mine while she nodded to acknowledge my presence. That was her! Sujata Mohapatra......the name I have googled, you tubed, researched and dreamt about for years. I was like a teenager with a crush. Every time Sujata aapa looked at me my heart skipped a beat and I felt 400 butterflies fly around simultaneously in my tummy.  

As I danced, I acquainted myself to the place and the people around me. We were 22 dancers from different parts of the world and probably spoke a dozen different languages but each and every one of us knew the steps like we had always been classmates. 

New experiences and new friendship :)
Sujata aapa's voice beamed through the room as I struggled to keep up with her pace. She walked us through the schedule of the workshop. The workshop was a part of the Mudra dance festival that took place simultaneously at the NCPA theaters. NCPA was the brainchild of JRD Tata and Dr Jamshed Bhabha, two visionaries who saw India's need for an all-encompassing performing arts centre and built NCPA in 1969 on land reclaimed from the sea.  There was something very artistic about this. Art and culture add character to a city and NCPA does that for Mumbai. Even if it had to be on reclaimed land :) We rehearsed in the Sea View room of the TATA theatre. And the view from there was undoubtedly spectacular.

 Sujata aapa taught us an abhinay (theatrical dance) piece called 'Braja ku chora'. It is a beautiful enactment of a mother’s effort to put her little one to bed. She tries to frighten, threaten, pamper and sing for him in an attempt to make him sleep. Dance has the power to express thoughts and ideas that sometimes even words fall short of. Specially when the dancer is as effortless and convincing as Sujata Mohapatra. 

This year's dance festival was themed on motherhood. A beautifully conceived concept that speaks of the relationship a dancer shares with her mother. A relationship built on gratitude and gratefulness from the dancer and support and encouragement from the mother. Yet there comes a point in most dancers lives where she fears the commitment motherhood requires and often decides to live a life solely dedicated to her art.

The Mudra dance festival highlighted this disconnect between dancers and mothers by laying a platform for a fresh genre of performing artists. The mother and child duos. Day one of the festival was marked by a performance by Jhelum Paranjape. She paid homage to her mother, who she recently lost, while she danced to songs sung by her son Bunkim Paranjape. It was heartwarming to see them perform together, support each others art forms and understand each others creative independence.  A mother who danced to her son's tune....quite literally!

Sujata and Preetisha Mohapatra (top right); Experimental Theater at NCPA (bottom right and top left); Jhelum and Bunkim Paranjape (bottom left)
On the last day of the dance festival we watched Sujata Mohapatra and her daughter Preetish Mohapatra dance together. It was hard at times to identify which one of them was the mother and which was the daughter. A great compliment for both the teacher and her student or in this case for a mother and her daughter.  It was a perfect end to this beautiful festival. 

There is an aura in every dancer that makes you want to believe everything they say and do. Its the ease with which they blend fantasy and reality that makes you want to agree with them. I witnessed this when they spoke about balancing motherhood with a career. 'Show your audience the pleasure of dancing and not the effort thats behind it'. A motto that every dancer tries to live by. Sujata aapa explained motherhood to us with the same ease. Its a picture only a dancer can paint.

The entire experience was particularly special for me as I watched the show with my mother. She’s the reason I was, am and always will be a dancer. So thank you again Ma for always watching over me like its my 1st time on stage. Love you. Happy belated mother's day!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make the outdoors a part of the household

I'v spent most of my life in Oman. My dad moved in 1973 to a very promising Oman full of opportunities. Most of our early life in oman was spent making it feel like home. My parents always kept us very connected to our indian roots. At that time, most expat families living in Oman led a very disconnected life from anything local.  We hardly ever ate arab food, never spoke arabic and rarely interacted with the locals. So everytime I think back, I wonder what was it that made Oman always feel like home?

In 2004, I moved to Bangalore for college. It was a strange yet exciting change from the uber comfortable life we live in Oman. Strange because you feel like an outsider in your own country. When we discussed life in the middle east there was always one thing that stood out. Kids from most other cities of the world did not go on picnics as often as I did.

One my favorite clicks at Quriyat, Oman
I cant believe we managed to line up for a pic :)

My best childhood memories usually looped around the camps, picnics, desert safaris and hot water spring visits in Oman. The excitement of waking up on a friday morning to go on a picnic was so unique. Just the thought of it brings a smile on my face.

We never felt the need for water parks since we had Falajes and Wadis. We didn't have an indoor mountain climbing wall but we had our wadi treks and who ever needed an olympic size swimming pool when we had the beautiful beaches all around us.  Only when I think back do I realise how amazing every one of those experiences were. It never occurred to me before I moved out of Oman.

Building sand castles = Instant fun

Despite the food, language and cultural differences, Oman's spectacular landscapes have welcomed people of all ethnicities with open arms.

Oman's natural beauty only seems to get better as the years go by. Sometimes we really need to take a good look at what we see around us. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Take a Shot at it

2 months since my last blogpost. Its been long and eventful I must say. Since the time I'v begun blogging (or calling myself a blogger), I feel like its important to live a more blog-worthy life. Its like the need to add twists and turns like in a soap opera. But I think I'll keep away from the amnesia and plastic surgery scenes for a while ;)

2014 started on a great note. I was a part of an Odissi dance team and we travelled and performed in Vizag (Vishakapatnam), India. Needless to say, I had an absolutely fantastic time. The experience was the first of its kind for me in so many ways. To begin with i'v never before had a chance to brag about travelling for a performance. Made me feel like a hoity-toity film star!

The dance festival was organized for indian classical dancers living and performing outside India. We expected to meet lots of indian dancer like ourselves, who connect to their culture through their dances. What we didn't expect were Russian, Iranian and Kazakh dancers drawn to India by their sheer love for indian classical dance. How madly in love should you be to be able to let go of everything and just live for dance? Their comfort with everything indian left me amazed. Believe me,  it confuses the hell out of you when you see a russian girl sing a Shloka with the same familiarity that she would sing "Jingle Bells".

 (Clockwise from top) Eleonora Ukhanova  and her daughter from Russia during their Bharatnatyam Performance;  ; Naznin Baygani from Iran performed Odissi ; Kasiet Adilkhanova from Kazakhstan
'Follow you dream and success will follow you'

Such a cliché. We've all heard it too many times. But is it really that easy to let go. The lure of a regular income always lurks in the corner. My respect for performing artist of any kind goes up twofold everytime I think of it. In a world where people are so quick to judge and ridicule, putting yourself out there is one of the hardest things to do. Everyone needs gratification for their work but what assures the appreciation. When I look at art that has transcended the life of its artist, I always wonder if the artist knew this would happen.

Jayadeva is a poet who lived in the 12th century. His lyrical genius, 'The Gitagovinda' has taught me how to imagine, how to understand, how to express and how to exist. Did he as an artist, at anytime, predict that his art carries this power?

I'm glad they made a choice that inspires people like me. And kudos to every artist who has mustered the courage to pave their own path. 

So keep dancing, painting, singing, writing and creating in any way you can. All in all...keep the right brain alive :)