Stampede “Mela”

Ian Tyson (Parade Marshal), Premier Alison Redford, Calgary Stampede Board Chair Michael Casey and Calgary Stampede Board vice-Chair Bob Thompson greet parade attendees.
Photo Credit: Harrison Gallelli

I have been following the news about Calgary Stampede with enthusiasm. Having lived in that city for few years, I thoroughly enjoyed the stampede and the parties. For the uninitiated, Stampede is an annual rodeo, exhibition and festival held every july in Calgary, Alberta in canada. It is often called the ” Greatest Outdoor Show on the Earth”. The theme is mainly western and the main events include the stampede parade, the rodeos, chuck wagon racing etc. The Stampede grounds are lined with vendor after vendor selling all kinds of foods and goodies, many amusement type rides and then there is a farm life component to it , many breeders and farmers showcasing their animals. The most amazing thing is that the Stampede impacts all aspects of life in the city during its ten day run. Every place from restaurants and malls to banks and churches are decorated in stampede themes; the corporate head honchos ditch their power suits for a cowboy hat and boots- Everybody is dressed for the stampede!

The rodeos have also drawn negative attention in the past on the account of ill-treatment of animals. But that is not my place to comment.

I must admit , the Calgary stampede resonates with my indian-ness(if there is a term like that). Being an immigrant means always drawing on some similar experience from your homeland to understand your new experiences. Up unitll some years ago, every major town in India had its own version of stampede called in the hindi language as “mela” (pronounced may-la). I think the literal meaning of mela is a meet or a fair . it can be religious or commercial or a sport meet. But the components remain the same – Exhibition, Eateries, Entertainment , Shopping and Games / competitions and most importantly people gathering. Some big melas are thriving till today. Notably popular among tourists are the Surajkund Crafts Mela and the religious Kumbh Mela. Whatever be the purpose of these fairs or meets, It is incredible what can happen when people get together. Every individual adds to the atmosphere and contributes to what we take away from these experiences.

In bollywood movies of old, the mela figured in many a stories and usually featured a village belle enthralling the audience with her song and dance.

Sophisticated or not , at the very least, almost everyone I know enjoys a good show and relishes in a collective experience. Whether it is Calcutta (now called Kolkata) or Calgary, I’d cheer on the collective experience that brings us all together.

Phir Milenge!!

India in my heart: Accessories

I am a very simple person but I like to dress up on occasion. Especially if it is an occasion which would require me to dress up in ethnic wear.

Confession : I do most of my buying in India but I do love to scout the local-Indian shops for their collections.

Apart from Indian fabrics, I love all sorts of accessories although I personally don’t own as many pieces as I would want. šŸ™‚

The hindu bride usually wears 16 items of adornment called “Solah Shringaar” which includes the wedding dress, necklace, earrings, nose ring, toe rings, bangles, armlets, waistband, bindi, hair and head ornaments as well as kohl (kajal) lined eyes, flowers, perfume, henna and vermilion(sindoor). Different regions have different style of accessories and some accessories are worn all across the board….religion and region notwithstanding.

The diversity of designs and styles of accessories is amazing. There is a huge list of items that can be covered in this topic but I will reserve that discussion for later.

Do let me know if you own some special pieces of ethnic accessories.

Phir Milenge!!

Bollywood and Big Fat Indian Wedding

“So did you have an arranged marriage?”

“Did you speak to your husband before you got married?”

“Did he come riding on a horse/elephant for the wedding? ”

Yes, Yes and No.

I am from India and Mine was an arranged marriage.Ā  And Once we both agreed to getting married, our families met and decided the date, venue and other arrangements (no headache of planning or becoming a bridezilla). After seven years I can say it worked out pretty well for us.

My wedding was notĀ  a Bollywood production. Given that majority of population in India ( or of Indians anywhere) is of Hindu religion and What is seen on the silver screen is a grand Hindu wedding, it is easy to understand why these questions would come my way. But mine was a simple church wedding. He didn’t come riding a horse, no large wedding procession, no dancers dancing in a synchronized way and the wedding ceremonies did not last one whole week.

I would not be wrong in saying that I love bollywood movies. I am among the ones who watch atleast one bollywood movie every week. It is like a comfort food to me and it is something that still gives me a glimpse (however rosy!)inĀ  to my Indian culture. As a culture, Our love for colors, largeĀ  family gatherings, food and celebration is epitomized in a marriage ceremony and movie makers get that. Thanks to the movies, The tradition of sangeet (Song and dance at bride’s house), mehandi (or application of henna have moved out of the religious domain and into weddings of all religions.

In south of India, it is customary for christian brides to wear a Saree- the traditional Indian garment albeit in white instead of red. The jewellery is in keeping with the traditional style.

This is from another wedding in my family. A few years ago, this would not have been a common sight – A christian bride with henna on her hands.

This is one thing that Bollywood has achievedĀ  cannot be paralleled by any socio-political discourse especially when it comes to weddings. Bollywood has succeeded in addressing the culture of the land without its religious connotations….. I think it has become a unifying factor for a land often divided on issues of religion and languages.

I guess that is a great gift of Bollywood movies.

oh and if you are interested in seeing one Bollywood movie with a big fat Indian wedding with all the bells and whistles, I would recommend Hum Aapke hain kaun

Phir Milenge!!

Sunday Morning – Storm in a “Chai” cup

I call my self a seasoned tea-addict.Ā  These days there are so many flavored and herbal teas available on the market; some without having anything to do with the actual tea-leaves; that making a choice can be overwhelming for a tea-newbie. I have tried so many teas but my heart is stubbornly still stuck to the strong Indian Tea – Chai latte as some big coffee chains call it and referred to as masala tea else where.

I have fond memories of having cup of chai and reading the newspaper sitting alongside my dad who himself is a tea-lover. That was then but nowĀ  read my news online and my mornings start with an instant coffee or juice. “Chai” still is my perfect Sunday indulgence.

Generally the recommended ratio is half a cup of water with half a cup of milk to make a cup of chai, I usually go with a ratio of 1:1.5. 1 cup of water and 1.5 cup of milk to make two cups of Chai.

If you cannot find Assam or Darjeeling tea in your grocery store, the Orange pekoe tea comes in as a close second.

I flavored my tea with some cardamom today. Although I also use ginger on some cold Canadian nights and if you have sore throat that hurts try adding (only) a few crushed peppercorns and you will feel warm with in and all over. If you can get yourself some holy basil leaves (tulsi) or a few drops holy basil oil available at natural food stores, your chai would beat chicken soup for relieving colds.

The trick is to let the water come to a running boil before you add anything. Patience is key :). Add sugar and cardamom let it boil for few more seconds. The base idea is that all the ingredients areĀ  fully ‘cooked’.

Add your Tea bag and let boil. The longer it boils the stronger and bitter your chai would be. Then add milk. The tea leaves continue to seep into the milk. I like my chai more milky and I let itĀ  simmer on medium heat for a minute or two.

I love to see the foam rise to the rim of the pan before I remove it from the heat and serve.

My perfect ” Chai ki pyaali” (cup of tea) with a few arrowroot cookies to go with it. I know it’s been a long post. You know what I think the Japanese got it right , making and serving of tea is a ceremony to be enjoyed and its good for us. šŸ™‚

Phir Milenge!!