Ramlila for GenX

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By Neha Sethi and Babu

Think of Ramlila and you can picture a Sita clad in a nine-yard long orange saree with her head covered. But talk to present generation and they will tell you how they have seen Sita. “Sita wears cut-sleeved blouses and she wears jewellery like Aishwarya Rai wore in Jodha Akbar,” says Harshita Agarwal, a nine-year old.

Ramlila, which was a part of tradition in earlier days, is losing its importance as a means of recreation. Computers, television and video games have taken over. “In our days, we used to wait the whole year for Ramlila. It was one of the few means, apart from radio, that we had for recreation,” says Kanta Malhotra, now a grandmother of two. “Now my grandchildren laugh when I tell them to go and see that Ramlila. They prefer TV over it,” complains Malhotra.

But there are still some homes in Delhi where Ramlila is awaited just like a new show on TV is. Sahil Ahuja, a student of eleventh standard in a public school says, “My father plays the role of Ram in the Ramlila held near our place. This Ramlila has been happening here for the past 34 years. I have been a part of it since I was a child. Ramlila for me is an integral part of my life.”

The Chairman of this Ramlila Committee in Patel Nagar, Jitender Bhardwaj says, “This Ramlila is as important for me as it is for the kids in this area. I still get excited during those days as I used to when I was a child. It is important for the kids to learn about their culture. And they are able to do it in an exciting manner through this Ramlila.”

The kids, who have grown up seeing Ramlila are also excited about taking part in it. Pratyaksh and Praman, who are six-year old twins, can always be seen behind the stage to catch more of the back stage action. “This time we both are playing the role of monkeys in Hanuman’s army,” they both say in chorus.

Though Ramlila portrays the story from the holy book of the Hindus, it has never been restricted only to Hindus. People from other religions await it as much. Salim Khan, a 50-year old, who lives in Okhla Vihar says he has been seeing Ramlila ever since he shifted to this area. “Ramlila is an event that I await throughout the year. I have been seeing it since I was in tenth standard. I love to go and sit on the rickety seats and eat peanuts while watching Ramlila,” he says.

For Ritika Bajaj, a teacher with a primary school, this year was the first time when she watched Ramlila. While the joy clearly reflects on her face, she realises the many years she has already missed. “I think that I have missed out on something in life. After seeing it, I feel I would have enjoyed it more if my parents had got me here when I was a child,” she says with a promise that she would ensure that her own kids would not miss this gala cultural event.

Security mull over malls

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By Kumar Anand and Neha Sethi
Photo: Jaishree

Ruchi Sreedhar, a student of Deen Dayal Upadhyay College has been told to cut down her frequent visits to malls by her mother. After the bomb blasts in Delhi, Vandana, Ruchi’s mother, doesn’t think malls are a safe place. “I am not satisfied by the checking in malls. The malls are as unsafe as open markets.”

Many of the malls don’t have even basic metal detectors, leave aside thorough checking. Megha Chaudhary, a PR professional says, “I recently went to Lifestyle and there was no checking there. Not even a frisk through the bags.”

Rajkumar Singh, Assistant Store Manager, Van Heusen, The Great India Place mall says there are many entry points in the mall, thus making it difficult for security checks. “There are special entry points for staff, and no one checks at those entry points. Also many security people don’t check properly so it is very easy to take anything inside the mall,” he adds.

The police have sent out advisories to malls and multiplexes, to take firm precautions against any possibility of terror strikes. But the lax attitude of authorities makes them vulnerable.

Mithilesh Jha, a security guard at Westgate Mall, Rajouri Garden, has a different opinion and says that the security is very tight. “We observe each and every person entering the mall. We check their belts, shoes, pockets, wallets and mobiles.”

The authorities make tall claims, but our photographer Jaishree had a different experience. “When I could take a knife in my bag and enter the Pacific Mall in East Delhi without being detected, then how can I trust the authorities when they say they are strict?,” she asks.

The security in markets and other places increases only after a blast has taken place. An increase in security in the Lajpat Nagar market was observed only after the blasts took place in the market last year.

Sowmya Padmanabhan, a resident of Karol Bagh says, “After the blasts in Lajpat Nagar last year, the security in Karol Bagh market was increased only for eyewash. But after the blasts here this year, the security has become really tight.”

Do we really have to wait for a bomb to go off in a mall before the security position is strengthened?

Women Power

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Aqsa Anjum

Delhi-based Kiran Jain, a 49-year-old, has been struggling to meet her daily needs. Widowed at an early age, Jain is a single mother of a mentally challenged child. Instead for taking up typical jobs ‘meant’ for a woman, she decided to learn to drive auto rickshaw from Sunita Choudhary, the first woman auto driver in Delhi. Twice everyday, once in the morning and once in the evening, Choudhary conducts free auto driving lessons for interested women.

“I need to pay house rent of Rs 2,500. There is no one to generate income at home. I think if I learn this skill then at least I would be able to pay the rent and also to take care of my child,” said Jain.

Like Jain, Archana Kashyap too participates at Choudhary’s training sessions. Kashyap’s husband left her two years back. With no decent means of livelihood, she has decided to become an auto driver.

When asked the reason for the choice of the profession, Kashyap retorts, “If women can become prime minister and president in India then why can’t a woman be an auto driver?!” She claims to be a dedicated learner and seems excited to get her driver’s license.

In a city where women often find it difficult to travel due to harassing auto drivers, presence of female drivers may come as a relief.

“Nowadays autowalla harass women and charge more. When I start driving, I will charge through metre and will take special care for my female passengers,” says Kashyap.

Shruti Yadav, a 22-old-old student, had an opportunity to ride on Sunita Choudhary’s auto. “First of all, I was amazed to find a female auto driver. But then I was really happy to note that women at grassroots level are taking up such jobs. This is true women empowerment,” exclaims Yadav.

Sunita Choudhary, the woman behind all this is quite confident about her venture. With the upcoming Commonwealth Games, she feels women auto drivers will be more in demand. “Woman drivers would be more polite and welcoming to the guests during the Games,” she adds.

Her own story has been that of an inspiration for hundreds of deprived women in the city. She came to Delhi in 1992 after undergoing horrific domestic trauma. In 2001, she enrolled with the Institute of Driving, Training and Research (IDTR) to become the first woman auto rickshaw driver in the city.

All eyes would be on the road to see whether Choudhary’s initiative bore fruits.

Busy October for fashion designers

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Atul Chand, Chief Divisional Executive, Wills Lifestyle with Manish Arora,Grand Finale, Designer, WIFW, Sunil Sethi, President, FDCI at the unveiling of the Grand Finale Designer for WIFW SS'09

Picture Courtesy:FDCI


Kunal Majumder

October is a busy month for the fash frat. While New Delhi will witness two fashion weeks, several designers will be participating at international events like the London Fashion Week and the Tranoi Fair.

Spring/summer 2009 show

The five-day Wills Lifestyle India Fashion Week (WIFW) Spring/Summer 2009 commences on October 15. Designer Manish Arora will showcase his collections at the finale. Called the ‘Manish Arora Circus’, the work will interpret the drama of circus in his own signature style. He will also create an exclusive collection for Wills Lifestyle that will be retailed through Wills Lifestyle stores.

WIFW also announced the names of 18 designers participating for the very first time at WIFW. This list includes some of the well-known names like AG2 by Adarsh Gill, Sanchita Ajjampur and accessory designers like Shelina & Camelia and Priyanka Murarka Jool Kurry.

Other Fashion Week

Delhi Fashion Week, the initiative by the breakway fashion body, Fashion Foundation of India led by Sumeet Nair, is scheduled to begin on October 14.

“The Fashion Foundation of India will work closely with the participating designers to enable them to best present their collection to the buyers and the media,” said Meera Ali, spokesperson, Fashion Foundation of India.

Ali claimed that the format of the Delhi Fashion Week is based on feedback received from buyers, eminent people from within the industry, media, international agents and the designers themselves.

Global showcase

Meanwhile, young designers Gaurav Gupta and Varun Sardana along with other eminent names like Tarun Tahiliani and Rohit Bal participated at the prestigious Tranoi Fair in Paris. Fashion Foundation of India had offered grants to these designers. This time, Tranoi Fair has India as the theme. Titled ‘Made in India, the fair has an Indian pavillion from October 2 and then from March 2-5.

Fashion designers Rina Dhaka and Nitin Bal Chauhan exhibited their collections at the spring/summer 2009 edition of London Fashion Week. The exhibition played host to over 210 top British and international ready-to-wear and accessory designers ranging from the edgy and cool to the contemporary and commercial. Dhaka showcased her collection in the ready-to-wear segment while Chauhan’s collection was exhibited in the Estethica segment.

Wearable Art

Three Indian design outfits have been shortlisted to be showcased at the famous fashion art show, Montana World of Wearable Art 2008, based in New Zealand. FDCI has promised to provide a cash award of Rs 30,000 each to the designs shortlisted.

The winners include NP Jayaraj and Pooja Bedi of Pearl Academy of Fashion, New Delhi, Pooja Gosain of NIFT, New Delhi and Pooja Rajput of SNDT College, Mumbai.

IFF, Kuala Lumpur

This year’s edition of International Islamic Festival (IIF) at Kuala Lumpur is expected to attract a number of fashion designers from South Asia. To be held in November, the theme of the festival is ‘Discover the Beauty of Modesty’. The event aims to popularise Islamic couture. With the aim to promote young talent, IIF plans to launch the IIF Young Designer’s Award this year.

Design award

In another development fashion journalist and former beauty queen Meher Castelino and designer Rahul Mishra will represent India at the International Apparel Federation (IAF) in the Netherlands. Castelino will be part of the jury while Mishra would be competing for the annual IAF International Design Award 2008.

Pix courtesy: FDCI

Ramlila Redefined

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Akanksha Kukreti

Gorgeous Sita, dashing Ram and the debonair Ravana – this is the 21st century Ramlila.

The Dusshera season has transformed into a mega cultural affair with huge pandals, good-looking actors, enormous crowd and increasing number of sponsors.

At the Old Delhi’s Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee’s event, the role of Sita is being played by an actor who has an active film career. “The girl playing Sita’s character is working on 14 films right now. She is very busy. We look for the best talents for our Ramlila” says Arjun Kumar Gupta, secretary of Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee. “Most of these actors are already well-employed. They take part in Ramlila as their hobby and passion. That is why they are not paid but organisers take good care of their food and lodging,” he adds.

Vinit Yadav, a 21-year-old panwala from Vrindavan, has been selected to play the role of Laxman in another Ramlila in Delhi. “Around four months back the organisers came to take our audition. I got selected and I am very happy to be here,” says Yadav with a smile.

The 10 days Ramlila ideally begins with a Ganesh Puja and ends with the Rajyabhishek of Lord Rama. “Each day is divided into different episodes. Earlier Ramlila was simple but today it’s a hi-tech affair with more colours in terms of drama, costumes, lights and sounds. Now one can see Akash(sky), Dharti(earth) and Patal(nether world) on a single stage divided in 3 parts,” explains Gupta.

The competition among the Ramlilas has also increased. “Earlier there was no competition. Ramlilas were just Ramlilas and nothing else. Today there are around 1000 such committees in Delhi itself. Moreover many of these performances are organised on a single day. This leads to more competition,” says Gupta.

Yogeshwar Sareen, a 67-year-old, remembers the Ramlila from his childhood days. “In my childhood, we used to go miles to see the performances. The actors were simple and people used to accept them like the Ramayana characters for those 10 days. Today everything has changed. There is a Ramlila taking place in every second street and actors are also more loud, expressive and beautiful .”

It’s not just the performances; there has been a dramatic increase in the security conditions keeping in mind the on-going terror attacks. “In the initial days, the crowd was very less due to blasts which badly affected our business. But as soon as the things got normal, people started flocking to the event enthusiastically,” claims Gupta. According to him, this year Luv-Kush Ramlila Committee’s performance attracted around 1.25 lakh people.

With fast changing social life, the cultural events like Ramlila are bound to see more changes. It will be interesting to watch these changes in the years to come.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) meets with Martti Ahtisaari (left), Special Envoy for the Future Status Process for Kosovo, at the United Nations, New York, February 2008.
Pix courtesy: UN, Mark Garten


Kunal Majumdar

Former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari has been named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize 2008.

"Ahtisaari is an outstanding international mediator. Through his untiring efforts and good results, he has shown what role mediation of various kinds can play in the resolution of international conflicts," said Ole Danbolt Mjoes, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee in a press statement.

The committee has cited Ahtisaari's contribution in the establishment of Namibia's independence, his role in finding solution to the complicated Aceh question in Indonesia and his resolve to find solution to the Kosovo conflict.

Finland erupted in joy after the news was announced. Finnish foreign minister Alexander Stubb told CNN that he is thrilled. "There is no one is the world who deserves it more. In Martti Ahtisaari we have a true statesman and a world policy actor," said Stubb.

Ahtisaari, who was Finland's President from 1994 to 2000, has been a favourite to win for years.

"As Finns, we can be proud that our nation's contribution to world peace has been given the highest recognition. We have long traditions in peacekeeping and we are also experienced in civil crisis management. Additionally, we have individuals like Martti Ahtisaari who have with their own efforts and personal capabilities have helped build a more peaceful and fairer world," said Tarja Halonen, President of Finland.

Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen too welcomed the news. "This recognition also serves as an appreciation to Finland for providing a solid basis for President Ahtisaari especially in his outstanding work as a mediator in international conflicts in recent years," said Vanhanen.

The Nobel Prize to Ahtisaari is being seen as recognition of Finnish foreign policy and diplomatic skills. Historically stuck between two powerful neighbours – Sweden and Russia, the country is trying to balance between the pro-US European Union and the ambitious Russia.

This year Finnish foreign minister also occupies the post of chairman at Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Europe's security body.