Monday, October 26, 2015

Love You Ravana

I fell in love with Ravana, holy attitude be damned. And no, I am not into bad boys but this one looked so cute. Yes, referring to the kathakali styled, heavily made up, tush shaking Ravana of the Sri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra’s musical drama Sri Ram.

Unwillingly I have to admit that despite considering myself a true blue Dilliwaali or so I claim, I had never seen this Ramlila, and I swear I didn’t realize I was missing something. Per chance a good friend had 2 spares on the day of the event and called me at the nth hour to join her with my son and I jumped out of my bed, I was napping, got ready in 2 minutes and met her at the venue. Even though we had the premium Rs 500 tickets the free seating required us to queue up outside the gate by 6pm. The foyer leading up to the open air stage was decorated on both sides by paintings and calligraphic renditions of the name RAMA in many languages. Getting a good comfortable sofa in the 4th row from the front, we settled to watch what would be an awesome learning and entertainment for all of us.
Into its 59th edition this Ramlila, as per its director Padma Shri, Shobha Deepak Singh, is a “perfect synergy of idealism, grandiosity and reality- a beautiful symphony of a magnificent tapestry of costumes, lighting, choreography and music.” And we nod our heads in agreement. It is all this and much much more, a peek into the story of Rama and Ravana who without each other could not have been what they are. I have always felt that Ravanas tragic flaw was his majestic ego and a bit of lust, he is much better than many Ravanas that we see on the streets these days. But well this post is not about being skeptical or negative, it is about this evocative drama that inspires one to think beyond the realms of black and white. It is all about the shades of grey (and not the 50 shades that you are smirking at).
Beautifully crafted stage came alive with lovely dances, amazing sound track that told the story, a slide show that was like headlines and poignant yet over acting  the way theater should be. This Ramlila did not remain untouched by the usage of multimedia including a bit of animation that has been introduced this year. The fact that the Ramlila is reinvented and includes elements of innovation makes it as new for anyone who is watching it year after year. My friend, a design instructor at a leading Delhi college and her daughter were equally mesmerized as if they were watching it for the first time and that’s saying a lot, isn’t it?
I loved the pace that the story moved at, fast yet not missing the milestones. What stayed with me as a deep after-thought post watching it, that usually never made an impact when one is reading the text, were these 2 episodes. One was that of Kevat the boatman, who ferries Lord Ram, Sita and Laxman across the river. When they reach the other shore, Kevat humbly refuses to take any money for his services, saying to Ram that you and I are both boatmen, I take people across the river and you take them across from this world towards moksha. Second came when Ravan was killed by the arrow of Lord Rama, and Ravana  pronounced that i am still victorious I will get to your kingdom (the Lord’s kingdom heaven) before you get to mine. I mean I almost had tears in my eyes, the way it was played out and said. To do the acts beautifully for almost close to a month each day requires much conviction and faith.
The dances were beautifully choreographed, in particular the dance by the golden deer was spectacular. Another scene that got standing ovation was when Bharat meets Ram in the forest and wants to take him back to where he belongs. The way Bharat runs and skids to lie prone in Rama’s feet was followed by thunderous clapping.
The arti and coronation when Lord Rama reaches Ayodhya and the deepawali scenes/dances deserve a special mention. The stage wore a look of festivity and divinity, the chiming bells, the diyas in the dancers’ hands and the royal seating of Rama and Sita with Hanuman and the rest of the family was straight out of a temple. To have achieved that look that inspired most in the audience to bow down or clap along was out of this world.

Post the Ramlila, we took selfies with Ravana, Ram and Sita and they all obliged. No photography is allowed while the show is in progress, so some of the pics in this post are not mine and taken from the Internet. Infact though I missed taking pictures, I realized that the moments soaked in were much more impacting than pictures framed, it is true the eyes will see what the camera won’t.

Thank you dear friend to have thought of us, its an experience we won’t forget in a hurry. For any body reading this, staying in Delhi and not have gone for it; you are missing much my friend. This year it is on till November 9th

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Haldighati - From Valley of Battle to Roses

Like Arjuna’s steadfast focus on the eye of the fish, our Udaipur trip was focused on everything Maharana Pratap, rest all was ancillary. On Day 1, after a breakfast fit for the kings at Devigarh by Lebua, we started on our journey to Kumbhalgarh fort via Haldighati.
On our way to Haldighati museum we stopped at the first Maharan Pratap bill board that we spotted and yes got ourselves clicked with it. The son was super excited and this trip was actually planned for his adoration of “Pratap”. Watching the tele serial of the same name infact it feels that Maharana Pratap is not only a part of the family he could be our son’s bff.

Anyways moving onwards we came across a small Maharana Pratap cave and stopped the taxi with flailing arms all over; it was an unplanned stopover, and yes we did have a very tight planned itinerary. The stop revealed a cave and a temple built around it, we were told that Maharana Pratap used to have his secret meetings with his allies here and that this cave that was once a secret passage has been blocked now. Its quaintness was what made it so beautiful.

Hopping back into the taxi, on our way to Maharana Pratap museum we noticed many vendors sitting under small make shift tents selling rose sherbet, gulkand and rose water. Not visible from the main road, we learnt that there are large farms where “Chaitri Gulab” variety of rose is cultivated.
Driving through the Haldighati range fills you up with sadness and pride at the same time, thinking of the bloody battle that ravaged so many families, the parks and monuments made in the memories of the valiant and the fact that one is standing at that same spot, can become a bit unnerving. Haldihgati got its name from the yellow haldi-like colour if the sand.  Rakht Talai, known such cause of the blood pool that formed as the result of the battle, is the exact spot where the battle was fought between Maharana Pratap and Akbar’s Man Singh. We could not go there because of time crunch but visited Badshah Bagh on the main road before the Haldighati pass where the Mughal armies had pitched their tents and on june 21st 1576 Pratap’s army had their first encounter. Today it is an ASI protected monument with a beautifully developed park.
Off the road, slightly uphill is Maharana Pratap Memorial. Beautifully built and maintained the black statue of the king on his horse with “surya” emblem on the sides of the platform evokes respect for all that the Maharana stood for. 

From here we proceeded to the museum and were surprised to see a heavy crowd thronging the place. They have a guided sound and light show every 15 minutes, and a short documentary film on Pratap. Walking through the dark gallery the tableaus have been created on both sides and light up accompanied by the recorded information on the life and milestone achievements of the Maharana. The museum has been developed and is maintained all by the efforts of an individual promoter Mohan Lal Shrimali.

Haldighati battle (1576) was also the one where Maharana Pratap lost his loyal horse, Chetak. A chattri buit in the memory of the mount where he died is called Chetak Samarak. A couple of meters away from the Maharana Pratap Museum, it does deserve a short stopover just to soak in the courageous feat and think of a beautiful man-animal relationship.
गिरता कभी चेतकतन पर¸ 
राणा प्रताप का कोड़ा था। 
वह दोड़ रहा अरिमस्तक पर¸ 
या आसमान पर घोड़ा था।
A poem by Shyam Narayan Pandey

From here we moved on to Kumbhalgarh fort, where Maharana Pratap was born. I told you, didn’t I, ours was a packed day. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Of Bumpy Landings into Maharaja Suite at Devigarh by Lebua, Udaipur

A curious case of missing center seats in the plane while scrutinizing our tickets and an eventual realization that it is a 2x2 seater small air craft by Jet. A hilarious introduction of a couple of crew present on board (hilarious cause the list finished before it started) and an equally expected bumpy touchdown by the pilot Rahul, a name my son won’t forget in a hurry. That was the beginning of our 4 day action packed holiday in Udaipur or really if you ask me our hot trail of following Maharana Pratap through Mewar’s forts and palaces.
MRP (as is fondly called by son and his friends) is a popular historical figure with them, the imagination having been fueled by the teleserial of the same name on Sony on this veer putra. Not a TV watcher and bad with dates I was being corrected and reprimanded for my lack of knowledge in the matter but confess I must, I came out equipped with stories of valour, strength and a great deal of sense of patriotism and respect for the Maharana clan. 
Our landing at the Maharana Pratap airport was as you have noticed much dramatic and equally dramatic was our double upgrade to the suite with private swimming pool in Devigarh by Lebua. A 40 minute ride by the car on an uphill winding road led us to a beautifully restored fort hotel, in the middle of a sleepy village that wasn’t so sleepy when we checked in since there was a wedding going on that night and the loudspeakers were blaring Sheila and Munni with equal gusto. On checking in we were greeted with showering of rose petals from the Ganesh Dwar and offered subtly flavored rose drink while the husband completed check-in formalities.

Now, this calls for a short review of the hotel. Well maintained with manicured lawns, high reaching fort walls, dreamy landscape of hills as far as you can see the horizon, very very well mannered and attentive staff that each time they saw you joined their hands in “namstae” and greeted you with cheer, much in contrast with our stay at Trident Udaipur that looked and felt equally bland after a stint at Devigarh. Our room with the pool was nothing short of a royal treatment, at the entrance to the suite was a very well created trishul and Shiva installation, an inviting pool and typical Rajputana sit outs complete with low seating. These definitely made early mornings almost surreal and an hour to look forward to, what with sipping tea (made by husband; even better, actually more shocking than anything else), surveying the expanse and soaking in the loud chatter of the birds. An amazing property, I must say with the only deviation being the F and B prices, prohibitive.
our private sit out 

Devigarh by Lebua

Since it was late evening that we had checked in, all we had to do was soak in the dimly lit fort and have our dinner. Except that the beer that we had at the hotel’s restaurant that costed us a cool Rs500/- per pint (we had 4 pints that night, poor unknowing us!) our adventure that night was limited. I still can’t get over the pint, whoever said size matters was right, a pint-size can happily take your happiness (am I making good Sindhi sense?!). Well the food made up for the shock, the Lal maas that we had was superlative and so was the chicken accompanied by Rs 200/- each roti/parantha. There I go again. I told ya, this meal was an adventure. Anyways retiring to the room with a most awesome view that we were promised the next morning was a solace. Another day. Another story. 

Ah did i mention that at Delhi airport we got lucky to have bumped into Saifeena; yes Saif and Kareena. Got sonny boy's pic with Saif while Kareena was at the cashier at WH Smith.